The defense of Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel began today with five witnesses and no surprises.
Two leaders of the Maryland House of Delegates and one former House member, a director of the Hargerstown Fair and a lawyer specializing in Maryland tax laws were called to the stand by Arnold M. Weiner, attorney for Mandel, to testify about race track legislation in question at the political corruption trial .
Originally Weiner had planned to begin with Dorothy Rodgers, wife of codefendant William A. Rodgers, who was expected to testify that she was told by W. Dale Hess, another codefendant, that the 1971 purchase of Marlboro Race Track was to be kept a secret from the governor to save him political embarrassment.
Codefendants Hess, Rodgers, his brother Harry A. Rodgers III, Irvin Kovens and Ernest N. Cory Jr. are accused by the prosecution of secretly buying the track so that Mandel could lobby for legislation that would produce windfall profits for the venture. In return, Mandel is charged with receiving some $350,000 worth of gifts along with other favors for taking part in the alleged fraud.
The prosecution objected to Mrs. Rodgers as a witness and U.S. District Judge Robert L. Taylor, saying he thought her testimony would be the "rankest hearsay" took the objection under consideration. He is expected to rule on it Monday.
Instead, Weiner called Hagerstown Fair director Herbert Macelwee jr., who testified that Mandel offered no help to the owners of the former Hagerstown Race Track when they were in "desperate financial straights."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald S. Liebman than produced a letter that described extensive advice allegedly given by Mandel to the owners.
"The letter from Edward Oswald, the Hagerstown track's attorney, to Mandel, mentioned that "you (Mandel) suggested that we should work out some long term solution . . . With this in mind, we began immediately to consider the transfer of our racing dates."
When shown the letter, which mentions two meetings Macelwee attended with the governor, Macelwee said he could not remember the interviews or the governor's advice.
The owners had legislation introduced in the General Assembly to approve the transfer of the 18 Hagerstown track racing days to Marlboro, but Mandel vetoed the bill after passage. Six months later his friends and codefendants purchased the half-time Marlboro track and at the next legislative session Mandel's veto was overridden and the new owners received the additional racing days.
The proceedings moved swiftly today primarily because the prosecution did little cross-examination of the legislative witness. During the prosecution's presentation of its case, the defense attorneys cross-examined their legislation witnesses at length.