Harry W. Rodgers III confided to a friend that "Gov. Mandel would be welcome at Tidewater" Insurance Co., his business, according to testimony today in the political corruption trial of Mandel and five others.
Richards J. Himmelfarb, Dodgers' attorney while Rodgers and four other codefendants secretly owned a race track benefiting from state legislation, testified that Rodgers made the statement sometime after Mandel was elected governor.
The prosecution charges that codefendants W. Dale Hess, Rodgers, William A. Rodgers, Irvin Kovens, and Ernest N. Cory Jr., secretly owned the Marlboro Race Track and allegedly gave Mandel some $350,000 worth of gifts so that he would lobby for legislation to the track's benefit.
Himmelfarb testified to Rodgers' statement out of the presence of the jury under questioning by chief federal prosecutor Barnet D. Skolnik. Skolnik did not question Himmelfarb about the matter when the jury returned, however.
Frank A. deFilippo, the opening witness in the prosecution's case, testified in June that Mandel told him shortly before the 1970 gubernatorial election that he had an option to join Tidewater, the firm run by three codefendants including Rodgers.
Himmelfarb's testimony today centered on his role as attorney for Rodgers, his brother William, and Hess, all codefendants charged with covering up their ownership in the Marlboro Race Track while Mandel allegedly lobbied for legislation to bring windfall profits to the Prince George's County course.
As he did at the first trial, Himmelfarb said that Gov. Mandel urged his friends in December, 1972, to keep their ownership secret, that Hess told him "Mandel has scotched coming clean."
That conversation had been preceeded. Himmelfarb testified, by numerous disussions about how Hess and the Rodgers brothers could merge their racetrack with the Bowie Race Track without revealing their ownership. For the year that they owned the course, the three men hid their interest with nominees or front men on public records.
Himmelfarb testified that Mandel reacted "very adversely" to the idea of revealing their ownership because he was fearful it would hurt him politically.