Contrite Bromwell Sentenced To 7 Years

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By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 17, 2007

A federal judge yesterday sentenced former Maryland state senator Thomas L. Bromwell, once one of the most powerful figures in Annapolis, to seven years in prison for using his influence as a lawmaker to benefit a construction executive in exchange for secret payments and other favors.

"I've embarrassed my name," the Baltimore County Democrat said before the sentence was imposed. "I have embarrassed my family. . . . I know where I'm going."

Bromwell, 58, pleaded guilty in July to federal racketeering and tax crimes, admitting that he improperly accepted more than $190,000 disguised as a salary that his wife, Mary Patricia, received for a no-show job.

At U.S. District Court in Baltimore yesterday, he pleaded for leniency for his wife. Her involvement, Bromwell said, "is clearly on my shoulders."

Judge J. Frederick Motz sentenced Mary Patricia Bromwell, 44, to a year and a day in prison. Motz said he had planned to impose a lengthier term but was swayed by her husband's comments. "I heard it loud and clear," Motz said.

The defense had asked Motz to impose a term "significantly below" 6.5 years for Thomas Bromwell, the minimum under recommended sentencing guidelines, and prosecutors had asked for closer to the recommended maximum, eight years.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in an interview that the Bromwells had made "powerful admissions" of guilt. "The sentencing today was not cause for celebration," Rosenstein said, calling the entire case "a tragedy."

Bromwell, the son of tavern owners, was elected first as a delegate and then, in 1983, to the Senate. He remained in that office until 2002, serving for a time as chairman of the Senate's Finance Committee. His attorney, Barry J. Pollack, said Bromwell's investigation, indictment and conviction were the "most public of public falls from grace."

A particularly embarrassing moment occurred in March, when transcripts of conversations secretly recorded by the FBI were made public. Bromwell was quoted during a rollicking dinner at a steakhouse as referring to himself as a "whore" in the state Senate for a Maryland racetrack owner. Elsewhere, he was quoted using offensive language about minorities and women, saying of the Rev. Al Sharpton, who attended one of his fundraisers, "I don't use the N-word, but he was an N."

Despite those revelations and his later admissions, large numbers of supporters rallied around Bromwell in advance of his sentencing. Office secretaries, elected officials, Little League coaches -- even his dry cleaner -- wrote letters to the court on his behalf. U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) wrote that Bromwell "displayed passion and commitment" as a representative for Baltimore County.

Nearly 100 supporters were on hand at the sentencing yesterday. Bromwell walked in, pointed a finger at friends in the crowd and shook hands. At one point, a man who said he attended high school with Bromwell hugged the former lawmaker and spoke to him and his wife. "You'll get through this. Others have," the man, Cornell Bass, later said he told them.

"I know racist; I know racist," Bass, who is African American, said in an interview. "I know absolutely positively 100 percent that Tommy isn't a racist."

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