A Harford Country contractor testified today that businessman Harry W. Rodgers III met with him three times to discuss obtaining secret information from the 1975 grand jury that ultimately indicted Rodgers, former Governor Marvin Mandel and four others on political corruption charges.
Contractor Warren C. Eastburn Sr, testifies in U.S. District Court here that he went to Rodgers in the fall of 1975 and told Rodgers he could get inside information on the grand jury. Rodgers' "ears kinda perked up . . . and he asked what of information I thought I could get," Eastburn said.
The contractor stated that at a second meeting in Rodgers' office, Rodgers requested information about a certain witness' grand jury testimony. At a third meeting, when the contractor told Rodgers his sources wanted money, Rodgers his sources wanted money, Rodgers said "Forget the whole thing," Eastburn testified.
In a telephone interview today, Rodgers acknowledged that Eastburn, who he described as a friend, "Spoke to me, and I said 'Find out what you can.'" But Rodgers added that in a subsequent meeting when Eastburn mentioned payment for the information, "I said 'Forget it.'"
Eastburn's testimony came at the close of the trial of Donna B. Brown, a 35-year-old Glen Burnie woman charged with lying to a 1978 grand jury that investigated the alleged scheme to buy the secret information.
The case was turned over to the jury today. They were to continue deliberatons Thursday.
The case was turned over to the jury today. They were to continue deliberations Thursday.
Prosecutors have charged that Brown developed a scheme to buy information from her best friend, grand juror Diane Lawrence, and sell it through Eastburn to people at Tidewater Insurance Associates Inc. Three of Mandel's codefendents, Harry W. Rodgers III, William A. Rodgers and W. Dale Hess, were Tidewater's owners.
Brown, however, has said that her conversations with Lawrence about selling the informaton were just a "joke". She asserted that she did not remember the conversation when she was called before the 1978 grand jury last October and asked about them.
The alleged scheme never came off. Lawrence reported Brown's alleged approach to federal prosecutors and worked with them to investigate it.
The mail fraud and racketeering convictions of Mandel and his codefendents were overturned last January by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In today's telephone interview, Rodgers said he was "reluctant to comment" specifically on Eastburn's testimony about their meetings because they occurred more than three years ago. "What I'd say now could be entirely inaccurate," he said.
He added that his initial reaction to Eastburn's offer of information form a grand juror was, "if she (the grand juror) wanted to talk about it, I figured it was her business.
"But when it got down to somebody wanting money, I didn't want any part of it. It wsasn't anything on my part to tamper with the jury."
Rodgers has not been charged in connection with the alleged scheme to obtain information, and he was not called to testify at Brown's trial.
In closing arguments at the trial today, Brown's attorney, Harold Buchman, suggested that Eastburn may have taken what started as a joke by Brown and "tried to do a lttle hustle on Harry Rodgers himself."
During testimony in the trial, a series of character witnesses described Brown as a "prankster" who often played jokes on her friends.
Federal prosecutors, however, in closing arguments stated "if there's been a gag in this case, I think if occurred when Donna Brown tried to get you to swallow her story."