Millionaire developer Dominic F. Antonelli Jr. helped former D.C. human resources director Joseph P. Yeldell obtain personal bank loans at about the same time that Yeldell approved key government permits for a hospital in which Antonelli had a financial interest, a federal prosecutor charged yesterday.
The alleged links between Antonelli's financial aid to Yeldell and Yeldell's approval of the permits for Doctors Hospital were described to a U.S. District Court jury as the prosecution concluded its cross examination of Antonelli.Antonelli, who at the time was a stockholder and board member of Doctors Hospital's parent corporation, underwent about eight hours of questioning by defense and prosecution lawyers Friday and yesterday.
Antonelli, 56, a parking and real estate executive who is standing trail with Yeldell on birbery and conspiracy charges, responded calmly to a series of frequently pointed prosecution questions, during which he acknowledged that he was at times contradicting previous testimony by other witnesses, including that of Acting D.C. Corporation Counsel Louis P. Robbins.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard L. Beizer described to the jury two instances in which Yeldell took actions that helped Doctors Hospitals at times when Yeldell and his business associates had obtained loans from Madison National Bank, in which Antonelli is a stockholder, director and executive committee member.
In mid-December of 1973, Beizer said, Doctors Hospital was granted a certificate of need by Yeldell, permitting construction of a proposed new hospital building. At about the same time, Beizer said, Yeldell and his associates in a now-defunct travel business were granted a $21,500 Madison bank loan that was obtained with Antonelli's help. Antonelli had personally guaranteed repayment of the loan.
In June 1976, Beizer told the jury, Yeldell held a meeting in his office with Doctors Hospital officers to discuss hospital plans. Although the jury was no given a detailed account of this meeting which Antonelli allegedly attended - it is known to have led to other key actions by Yeldell, including issuance of another certificate of need. Beizer argued that the meeting took place at about the same time that Yeldell and his business partners had received personal Madison loans of $4,000 each.
Antonelli replied to Beizer's assetions by contending that the Madison bank loans to Yeldell bore no relation to Antonelli's other dealings with the powerful city official.
"The two things are entirely separate in my mind," Antonelli said in response to Beizer's question about the December 1973 hospital permit and Madison loan. When asked about the similar June 1976 events, Antenelli said. "One thing had nothing to do with the other, Mr. Beizer."
Throughout his testimony, Antonelli has said that his financial assistance to Yeldell stemmed solely from a long-standing friendship and that he never sought or received any favors in return. To a succession of questions by Beizer, who sought repeatedly to link the two men's personal financial ties with their business and government dealings. Antonelli replied yesterday by saying. "They are just coincidences." "I fail to see the connection" or "One thing had nothing to do with another."
The prosecution appeard to cite Yeldell's dealings with Doctors Hospital in an effort to bolster its contention that the two men had engaged in a corrupt relationship designed for their mutual benefit. Doctors Hospital itself is not mentioned in the indictment on which Yeldell and Antonelli are now standing trial.
In the indictment, Yeldell, who at the time was director of the D.C. Department of Human Resources, is accused of conspiring with Antonelli to secure a highly profitable, 20-year DHR lease of building at 60 Florida Ave. NE for a partnership controlled by Antonelli. in exchange for Yeldell's help in arranging the lease, Antonelli is alleged to have assisted Yeldell in obtaining a series of short-term Madison bank loans. Later, the indictment charges, Antonelli personally gave Yeldell and additional, secret $23,000 loan.
The dealings between Yeldell, who is on unpaid leave from his most recent job as a top to Mayor Walter E. Washington, and Antonelli over Doctors Hospital's frequently controversial plans were first disclosed nearly two years ago by The Washington Post.
The Post reported at the time that Yeldell repeatedly helped clear the way for construction of a new Doctors Hospital complex to replace the existing facility and that he later - in June 1976 - approved a shift in the site for the proposed new structure to property owned by Antonelli, on 19th Street NW between L and M Streets.
Yeldell was criticized by some local medical officials at the time for authorizing construction of a new medical complex while a significant number of beds at other hospitals here were vacant. The Post reported that Yeldell, on three occasions, ignored advice from his health planning advisers, who urged his to reject the plans for the new Doctors facility.
Yeldell approved the site shift for the proposed Doctors Hospital building to Antonelli's property at about the same time that he received the secret $33,000 loan from Antonelli, according to court testimony.
In his testimony yesterday, Antonelli contradicted statements made earlier in the trial by Acting Corporation Counsel Robbins, who had described a 1976 meeting that centered on terms for the then-proposed lease for the building at 60 Florida Ave. NE. Robbins told the jury that Antonelli had said at the meeting that he would sign a lease only if it were for a 20-year period. Antonelli asserted yesterday that he had not insisted on 20 years, but had been willing to accept either a 10 or a 20-year term.
"Mr. Robbins is incorrect in that statement," Antonelli said.
The defense also called five character witnesses yesterday to testify about what they described as Antonelli's reputation for honesty and integrity. They included his longtime business partner, Kingdon Gould Jr., a former U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands; Kermit Roosevelt Jr., a lawyer; Milton Kronheim, a well-known wholesale liquor dealer; the Rev. Aldo Petrini, a Catholic priest, and the REV. Robert Walls, a Baptist minister.