A federal judge today dismissed charges against Baltimore banker I. H. (Bud) Hammerman stemming from his alleged role as an intermediary for cash kickbacks that went to former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew.
Judge R. Dorsey Watkins dismissed a tax charge at the request of federal prosecutors, who said that too much time - eight years - had elapsed since Hammerman committed the alleged crimes.
Hammerman had cooperated with prosecutors in their investigation of kickbacks Agnew received as Baltimore county executive and governor of Maryland in exchange for engineering and architectural contracts.
Originally, as part of a plea bargain, Hammerman pleaded guilty to a single tax charge. Over the strenuous objections of the U.S. Attorney for Maryland, Hammerman was then sentenced to prison along with Alan I. Green, another key witness.
The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond overturned Hammerman's sentence and plea, however, finding that he had reached the plea bargain thinking that the prosecutors could keep him out of prison.
When Hammerman and Green were sentenced, prosecutors felt the decision would make it more difficult to gain the cooperation of witnesses in return for promises to recommend leniency.
When the Hammerman plea was overturned, it became apparent that the U. S. Attorney's Office had little desire to pursue the Hammerman matter for fear of deterring potential cooperators in the then active investigation of Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel.
Prosecutors have also never taken legal action against several other cooperators, including engineer Lester Matz and former state highway official, Jerome Wolff. Numerous engineers including Green, have served prison terms as a result of their involvement in the Agnew and Anderson probes.
Hammerman, a longtime friend of Agnew, told prosecutors that he participated in a scheme with Agnew to obtain cash from consulting engineers in Maryland, keeping a percentage of the kickbacks for himself.
While he has never gone to prison, Hammerman has lost most of his once prosperous business and has suffered some social isolation in the community that had regarded him as a civic leader.