William A. Swisher, Baltimore's chief prosecutor on trial here on political corruption charges, today blamed the late James H. (Jack) Pollack, who was a powerful political boss, for wheeling and dealing with the prosecutor's office. Swisher said he was ignorant of Pollack's actions.
During his second day of testimony, Swisher said he learned during his trail that Pollack once demanded $3,000 from a man so the man's son would get a job as an assistant state's attorney.
"I knew I wasn't selling jobs," Swisher said. "I didn't know Jack was selling them either. I never suspected Jack of doing anything illegal and you just don't walk up to an old man and ask him if he's selling jobs.
"I don't know why Jack did it. He was a rich man. It's a disgrace to his memory."
Swisher, 46, is charged with 18 counts of mail fraud and three of extortion in connection with his 1974 campaign for the state's attorney office. Federal prosecutors charge that Pollack "brought himself a state's attorney," and in return Swisher sold Pollack jobs in his office and stopped a sensitive investigation of demolition contractors at Pollack request.
Swisher today described his 1974 underdog race for the state's attorney's office here as Pollack's "last hurrah."
He added, though, that he has learned more about Pollack's wheeling and-dealing brand of politics during the seven weeks of testimony in the trial than he knew during the bitter election when Pollack gathered his forces on Swisher's behalf.
Swisher repeated today that he didn't hesitate to rebuff Pollack, who was feared in many corners of this city, when Pollack sought a guarantee of patronage jobs from Swisher five days before the primary election. Pollack claimed to have such guarantees from judges, senators and congressmen.
"He wanted me to agree ahead of time and I said no," Swisher said. "The sale of jobs is a crime. And so is bribery a crime. But patronage is not a crime. I stood up [to him] because I didn't feel it was proper to be committed up front."
Assisted U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Hurson hammered away at Swisher during a lengthy cross-examination, asking whether it was at all believable that only Swisher would dare refuse Pollack.
"I wish he was here, to be honest with you," Swisher said.
"So do we," Hurson muttered.
"I'll bet you do," Swisher retorted.
Swisher also said Pollack could not have stopped the state's attorneys office's sensitive investigation of bid-rigging among contractors. He speculated that Pollack had "film-flammed" the contractors when Pollack demanded $25,000 from them to have the investigation stopped.