Defense attorneys for multimillionaire real estate developer Dominic F. Antonelli Jr. and former top D.C. mayoral aide Joseph P. Yeldell asked a federal judge yesterday to drop bribery and conspiracy charges against their clients because they said the indictment was improperly drawn and should have been brought in the local court system.
Antonelli's attorney, Edward Bennett Williams, made the requests for dismissal of the two counts against his client in detailed pretrial defense motions filed yesterday. John A. Shorter, Yeldell's attorney, adopted the same legal arguments in a brief filing on his client's behalf.
The pretrial motions are the first round of arguments to be made in the case, which is scheduled for trial Sept. 18 before U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell. The government must answer the motions by June 12, and a hearing on the arguments is scheduled for June 27.
Yesterday's motions dealt only a little with the facts of the case, and were based on more technical legal points surrounding the statutes under which the indictment was brought.
The two men are charged with bribery and conspiracy in connection with Yeldell's granting of a D.C. government lease to a building owned by Antonelli at 60 Florida Ave. NE. In return, Yeldell is alleged to have received a $33,000 loan and other financial favors from Antonelli.
The attorneys argued that the first count of the indictment - which charges the two men with a conspiracy to defraud the District of "its lawful governmental functions" - should be dismissed because it fails to state a criminal offense.
Although Williams conceded that federal law states it is an offense to defraud U.S. citizens of "lawful governmental functions" of its public officials, he argued that law should be applied locally only if the District were cheated out of money or property. There are no allegations in the indictment that the city government lost any money or property because of the acts of the two men.
The second count of the indictment charges Antonelli with bribery in connection with the loan, and Yeldell is charged with bribery in the third count.
Williams argued for dismissal of the bribery count on the basis that it should have been charged in D.C. Superior Court instead of the federal court system. He said it was an abuse of prosecutorial discretion to bring the alleged "municipal real estate bribery" case in the federal courthouse because the offense would be "strictly a local crime with no federal significance whatsoever."
In a third motion, Williams also reiterated his request for grand jury testimony of certain witnesses in the case - including D.C. Mayor Walter E. Washington and city administrator Julian Dugas - so he can more adequately prepare Antonelli's defense. Gesell had received a similar oral request by Williams.