U.S. District Judge Robert L. Taylor, presiding ever the political corruption trial of Gov. Marvin Mandel and five codefendants, angrily suggested today that a reluctant prosecution witness was trying to dodge the questions" of prosecutors.
Judge Taylor interrupted the questioning of William G. (Billy) Christmas, who had repeatedly claimed from the witness stand that he could not recall giving prosecutors last year certain information relevant to the prosecution's case.
"I don't remember . . . I don't recall . . . I might have said that," Christmas said in answer to some of the prosecutor's questions.
"I have serious doubts as to whether you are trying to dodge the questions," Judge Taylor finally interjected, shaking one finger at Christmas.
Christmas, a past president of the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association, had claimed that he could not recall telling prosecutors last year that Irvin Kovens, a Mandel codefendant and friend, had claimed to another witness at the trial that he, Kovens, "controlled" Marlboro Race Track.
Kovens is alleged by the prosecution, along with codefendants W. Dale Hess, Harry W. Rodgers III, William A. Rodgers and Ernest N. Cory Jr., to have participated in the giving of bribes and favors to Madel in return for Mandel's support of legislation that would financially benefit the men.
The connection of Kovens, even at third hand, to ownership of the Marlboro Race Track, which would have benefited from a bill the prosecution alleges Mandel supported, is crucial to the government's claim that Kovens was among those who stood to gain from bribes to Mandel.
The prosecutors had sought to have Christmas testify at the first trial, but he did not appear in response to a subpoena and efforts to serve an arrest warrant were unsuccessful during the time his testimony would have been relevant.