Former Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel's patronage chief and a Baltimore city judge were found guilty today of bribery in an attempt to influence state action on sewer permits for three Baltimore-area developers.
During a two-week trial here, prosecutors charged that Maurice Wyatt, who was one of Mandel's closest State House aides, received more than $5,600 in 1974 from Judge Allen B. Spector, who was then in private practice and had been hired by the developers.
Wyatt, the prosecutors said, then split the money with his law partner Donald Noren, who also was a lawyer for the state dealing with sewer permit cases. Noren also was found guilty of bribery today.
The convictions today in the city's ornate old courthouse added yet another chapter to the scandal-scarred history of Maryland, which has seen a myriad of local officials, a governor and a vice president of the United States fall from power for wrongdoing as Maryland officeholders.
The 38-year-old Wyatt greeted Judge James Macgill's pronouncement of the guilty verdict without flinching, a reaction in keeping with his cool, suave manner during nearly a decade as Mandel's lobbyist in the General Assembly and his chief dispenser of patronage.
In that job, Wyatt, known as "Mo" to his friends, had great influence, working for a governor who could turn a simple judicial vacancy into a political tour de force -- collecting dozens of political chits for each appointment he made.
"It's a position of vast power . . . a nice job for a lawyer with thoughts of becoming a lobbyist later. He can fill the government with guys who are beholden to him," said a prominent Maryland politician.
But it is also a job that invites enemies. "Remember," said Baltimore City Council president and former delegate Walter Orlinsky, "Wyatt had to say no to a lot of people too."
But Wyatt, friends and enemies agree, filled the job with style. "At least when Mo was sticking it to you, he did it with charm," state Sen. Julian Lapides, one of the Mandel administration's staunchest foes, once remarked.
If Wyatt, as some say, was the cando man of the Mandel years, he certainly continued in that role after leaving state government in 1978, following a stint as chief of patronage for Mandel's successor, former acting governor Blair Lee III.
In the summer of 1978, though out of government, Wyatt acted as chief negotiator in the selection of a running mate for Lee's unsuccessful bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
That same year, when embattled Laurel Raceway owner Joseph Shamy was looking for an entree into the oldline Maryland political world and a financial miracle, he called Mo Wyatt. Wyatt delivered on both counts.
Though Shamy was in trouble with creditors and bankers and under FBI investigation, Wyatt helped him secure a $4.5 million bailout loan from Washington's oldest and third-largest bank -- the National Bank of Washington.
By 1979, Wyatt had built up a hefty list of private lobbying clients and could be seen in the halls of the General Assembly cornering legislators and squiring them about at night at private parties thrown by trade associations. He was the chief strategist for an association of financially powerful supermarkets and drug store chains in what turned out to be one of the major lobbying wars of the session.
But as the 1980 session opened, Wyatt, son of one of Baltimore's oldtime political bosses, was under indictment after a year-long investigation by state Special Prosecutor Gerald Glass's office.
Wyatt "peeled back" on his lobbying accounts, according to a close friend, and threw himself into preparing his defense. This trial climaxed today as Judge Macgill read the guilty verdicts against Wyatt, Spector and Noren.
The prosecution's case focused on $20,000 in fees Spector received in 1974 from three developers who were seeking exemptions from a sewer hookup ban imposed by the secretary of the state health department. The sewer moratorium was halting millions of dollars worth of development, the prosecutors said.
In each case, the developers hired attorney Spector, who was then also a city councilman. He, in turn, sought Wyatt's help and split the money with him, prosecutor Gerald Ruter argued before Judge Macgill, who heard and decided the case without a jury at the defense's request.
Wyatt then split the fees with one of his law partners, Noren. Noren at that time was an assistant attorney general, assigned to defending the sewer moratorium before the department's Board of Review, which had the power to grant exemptions, according to prosecutors. In each case, the developers won the exemption they sought.
The defense argued that Wyatt properly received a part of the fees for legal assistance to Spector, and that Noren shared the fees because of his partnership with Wyatt.
Furthermore, defense attorneys argued, the prosecutors failed to show that Noren did anything to influence the Board of Review's decisions in the cases.
"The mere showing that a public official [Noren] received funds is not enough to show bribery . . . There must be an act . . . and there is not one scintilla of evidence that that act occurred," defense lawyer Paul M. Sandler contended in his closing argument.
But prosecutors argued that under Maryland law they do not have to prove that Noren actually did anything because of the money he received, only that there was "corrupt agreement" to influence him.
Defense attorneys have requested a new trial. Macgill will hear arguments on their request Tuesday.