Federal judge to sentence Bromwells

Each asks that term be less than guidelines

November 16, 2007|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,SUN REPORTER

In an effort to avoid prison time, the wife of former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell Sr. is adopting a time-honored legal strategy with a new twist.

Blame your lawyer. Or in this case, blame your three former attorneys.

Mary Patricia Bromwell, who has been represented by four separate lawyers, argued in court papers that the federal judge at her sentencing today should not penalize her for waiting more than 1 1/2 years after her indictment to plead guilty.

She pleaded in July to accepting a salary for a no-show job at a contractor controlled by Baltimore-based Poole and Kent construction company in return for her husband's intervention in contract talks.

Her husband, 58, is also scheduled to be sentenced today in federal court in downtown Baltimore on charges related to his acceptance of hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and home construction materials from a Poole and Kent executive in return for securing publicly funded contracts.

Sentencing guidelines call for a federal prison term for Bromwell of at least 6 1/2 years. But his defense attorney is asking U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz to sentence Bromwell to less than the recommended guidelines.

For Bromwell's wife, sentencing guidelines call for between 2 1/2 and about three years in federal prison, and prosecutors say she is not entitled to credit for a timely acceptance of responsibility.

But in court papers, her current defense attorney, William B. Purpura, insisted that the fault should be laid instead at the feet of "the tortured path of her legal representation from the inception of the investigation in 2003, one fraught with conflicts of interest on the part of her attorneys.

"It requires almost a score card to keep track of who is representing whom on any given day," Purpura added. "Clearly, Mrs. Bromwell, the least culpable figure in this drama, was irreparably harmed by the serial representation to which she was subjected."

Purpura wrote that a just sentence for Mary Patricia Bromwell is probation or home confinement.

Calling the claim "absurd," federal prosecutors urged Motz to sentence the ex-senator's 44-year-old wife to prison time within the recommended guidelines.

"This is not a case in which a husband took advantage of his unsophisticated or unwitting wife to further his criminal conduct. This is not a case in which the defendant took just one misstep or had one momentary lapse in judgment," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kathleen O. Gavin and Michael J. Leotta wrote in their sentencing memorandum. "Rather, this is a case in which the defendant deliberately and repeatedly accepted money and benefits that she knew she was not entitled to receive."

The court filing resurrects -- but hardly solves -- one of the enduring mysteries of the case: why the Bromwells' attorneys switched clients and then, weeks later, abruptly left the case as the trial date neared last year. The delay in the case eventually led to the Bromwells' guilty pleas this summer.

All of the relevant documents on the nature of the conflict -- which at one time was the subject of a grand jury probe -- remain under seal despite efforts by the The Sun to make them public.

Bromwell, a Democrat who represented Baltimore County in the General Assembly for 23 years, was originally represented by attorneys Robert Schulman and Joshua Treem of the Baltimore law firm of Schulman, Treem, Kaminkow, Gilden & Ravenell. His wife, Mary Patricia, had her own attorney, Gerard P. Martin of Rosenberg, Martin, Greenberg, also a Baltimore firm.

Then, without public notice or explanation, Schulman dropped out of the case. About the same time, Treem and Martin switched clients. In between, the Bromwells were assigned yet more attorneys to determine whether they were happy with their current lawyers.

About a week before jury selection for the Bromwells' trial was set to begin in March, Treem and Martin also left the case. Motz said it was because of "irreconcilable conflicts of interest" but has declined to elaborate or release court documents that would offer an explanation.

Without funds to pay for his own legal representation, the former senator is now represented by a court-appointed attorney, Barry Pollack of Washington.

None of the attorneys would comment yesterday on the reason behind the switch or the reasons for leaving the case.

As part of his sentencing, Thomas Bromwell asked the judge to review almost 60 letters written by friends and associates, many of whom pleaded for leniency in his sentence.

In addition to neighbors, customers and colleagues, other letter writers have substantial connections to the investigation that swirled around Bromwell and other Maryland politicians for more than seven years.

Nelson J. Sabatini, who served under two governors as Maryland's secretary of health, praised Bromwell in an Oct. 16 letter for his work on health care legislation.

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