Most of the men and women who staffed the "war room" were dismissed from the duty today. Only stacks of cartons, cabinet files marked "Mandel" and a list of strange words like "Marburra" gave any indication of the activity begun here two years ago that led to yesterday's conviction fo the governor of Maryland.
Up the hallway from the work space dubbed "war room" was Barnet D. Skolnik, lunching with one of the postal agents who made up the seven-member prosecution team - one of those now sent back to his normal routine.
Skolnik, of course, was still at work. He has led the six-year investigation into political corruption in Maryland and, although he dislikes the image, he has become the symbol of the office's series of successful criminal prosecutions.
A vice-president of the United States, two Maryland county executives and now a Maryland governor have all been brought down through the efforts of Skolnik and his colleagues.
"Corruption in government and business has been tolerated by an awful lot of people in Maryland for an awful long time," Skolnik said today. "I'd like to think these prosecutions deter - they can't possibly eliminate."
Deterrence, Skolnik said, could have started today with "some guy saying look at what happened to Marvin Mandel. It's just not worth the risk."
Judgments slip easily from Skolnik's lips. He believes what he says and he states his principles simply: "I'm not a zealot. I'm no different from the others I've worked with over the past years and I don't think my views differ from the public's - I consider violation of the public trust the most serious offense. It's a question of ethics that bothers me."
This is Skolnik today, the day after the Mandel conviction, a relaxed man who is willing to talk about his future and to praise the prosecution team, the jury and the judge.
During the trial, though, Skolnik often resembled a nervous bear. He regularly berated reporters for "asking me questions I can't answer" and frequently he was quieted by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Taylor when he soliloquized at length in court, the small points he was making lost in his seemingly endless wave of words.
But Skolnik does not give in easily.
He works "a hundred hours a week" with his colleagues because "we enjoy our work," he said. But even this fierce sense of duty and those his colleagues, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ronald S. Liebman and Daniel J. Hurson - were strenously tested during this trial.
"There is a great sense of relief that this case has finally come to an conviction," said Liebman. "Whatever the public thinks of the outcome, the fact that it ended, and ended in a verdict is of fundamental importance."
The strings of the Mandel investigation grew out of the earlier corruption investigations ofBaltimore County Executive Dale Anderson and former Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew.
The investigative clues gleaned from April, 1974, until February, 1975, were not used as evidence in the case. One reason was that after that time news of who owned Marlboro Race Track surfaced. Another was that agents found a key clue to the relationship between Mandel and his friends in hte journal of an accountant: "The figure "4/9" was written beside the name of W. Dale Hess, Mandel's close friend and former colleague in the legislature.
Next to the "4/9" notation were figures indicating that Hess had made a series of payments to Mandel totaling $15,000.
Sure that the "4/9" referred to a date - April 9, 1972 - the agents then spent a month looking through newspapers of that date, trying to find some clue as to why Hess would have paid Mandel that money.
It was only after weeks of search that the agents came across other documents which indicated that the "4/9" in the accountant's notebook referred to Hess's four-ninths share of the Security Investments Co., a lucrative interest that Hess had completely turned to Mandel.
Despite such time-consuming false leads, "We put together what we thought was an absolutely dynamite bunch of evidence that showed wrongdoing. Then we chose the statutes that best described the crime," Skolnik said yesterday.
One of those laws was the 1972 anti-racketeering statue, which gives Skolnik his greatest pleasure in the Mandel conviction because it includes automatic conviction because it includes automati confiscation of property used in a corrupt scheme.
"Most people say, with some venom, 'so you prosecuted the guy. Big deal. He goes to a hotel-style jail and he goes back to his millions.'
"With this law, those people can see that the white-collar criminal does suffer. We can confiscate the property and, thoulgh they're not going to be paupers, they aren't going to have all their millions."
Skolnik and his fellow prosecutors bridle when ever it is suggested that the real pleasure comes from a personal vendetta against the governor himself.
"We almost never lose a case," Skolnik said. "Doesn't that indicate we make sound judgments, not emotional ones? I think we were right in this case."
The Internal Revenue Service and Postal Service agents who have worked with him almost daily for more than two years, left his office for good today. Liebman, who has been with Skolnik since the investigation into Baltimore County kick-backs began in 1971, plans to resign soon to enter private practice.
That, however, does not mean an end to the political corruption unit in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baltimore. "I don't see any reason why it should end," said Liebman.
After this ordeal. Skolnick himself began openly talking about moving on. He would like to move to New York, he said, as a U.S. prosecutor.
"It's no secret that I like my work and for professional reasons I'd like to stay here," he said. "But there are personal considerations - my family in New York - that pull me away. Not strong enough while I had the responsibility I keenly felt for this case for the past two years. But the legitimate resistance to that pull has plummeted now that [the Mandel case] is over."
The decision to leave Baltimore will not be made, Skolnik said, until after Mandel case is truly finished - both the appeals, and then a few other little details.
"There are several instances of perjury we're thinking of prosecuting," Skolnick said, eyebrows arched.