Charles Edward Neiswender, a 52-year-old self-described "con man" from New Jersey, was sentenced today to 2 1/2 years in federal prison for obstructing justice in last fall's political corruption trial of Maryland's Gov. Marvin Mandel.
"A court must consider deterrence in light of the type of crime this is," U.S. District Court Judge Frank A. Kaufman told Neiswender during the sentencing." . . . I also happen to be one that believes a two to three-year sentence is not light.
"Anyone who is deprived of their liberty for any period of time gives up something precious."
Neiswender's sentencing today came a day after a 67-year-old suburban Baltimore furniture salesman was given a two-year sentence for a similar offense.
The salesman, Walter Weikers, was convicted of attempting to bribe a juror in the Mandel case to hold out for acquittal. Neiswender was convicted of soliciting a $20,000 bribe from Mandel's chief defense attorney. Arnold Weiner.
Neiswender had led Weiner to believe that the money would go to a Mandel juror who was willing to throw the case for a price.
A mistrial was declared in the Mandel case last Dec. 7 after several jurors in the case inadvertently heard a television news bulletin about the two tampering esforts.
The question of Weikers' earlier sentencing came up repeatedly during today's proceedings.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Leibman, emphasizing Neiswender's 20-year-old criminal record, depicted him as far as less deserving individual then Weikers.
In response, defense attorney J. Frederick Motz argued that Weikers' offense, attempting to bribe a juror, was far more reprehensible than what he had earlier characterized as his client's bumbling bribe solicitation.
"Plain, simple, fundamental fairness requires . . . that these cases be reconciled with one another," Motz told Judge Kauman before the sentence was pronounced. "Charles Neiswender did not cause that mistrial. . . He helped the government (after his arrest)."
Motz also noted that Neiswender had kept quiet about his arrest from the time he was first apprehended Nov. 5 - six weeks after he originally approached Mandel's attorney - until after the news of Weikers later tampering attempt had already been published.
Prosecutor Leibman immediately rose to declare that his representation was "false. It was the publicity about Mr. Weikers and Mrs. Neiswender that cause the mistrial . . . That was (Neiswender's) mission."
In the affidavit he gave prosecutors after his arrest. Neiswender said that he been paid $5,000 "to throw a snag in the trial."
Ever since the two tampering attempts, prosecutors have been trying, without apparent success, to determine the identity of the individual they call "the shark," who, they believe, instigated the efforts.
Neiswender's sentencing yesterday came after Judge Kaufman refused to grant a series of defense motions requesting a new trial, a judgment of acquittal in the case, and a dismissal of the original indictment.
Motz said later that he may appeal some of Kaufman's rulings, particularly the decision that the circumstances of Neiswender's arrest - after which he was driven more than 100 miles to secret, unrecorded judicial hearing - did not seriously violate federal rules.
If Motz does not appeal, Neiswender must report to federal authorities April 7 to begin his term. He will be eligible for parole in 10 months.
Immediately after the news of his arrest was made public in December, Neiswender described himself to a Washington Post reporter as a con man. "I could con the hell out of you," he said.