Janet Hall, the mother of the man charged with trying to extort money from Rep. Robert Bauman because of their alleged homosexual relationship, remembers the morning three years ago when her son told her about a visitor to the bar where he worked. The visitor's name, her son said, was Robert Bauman.
When Hall said she didn't know whom her son was talking about, he replied, "My God, mother, he's your congressman."
At the time, Hall wondered whether her son had actually met a congressman or was merely trying to impress her. His tales of life in Washington often seemed fantastic. Once, he came home announcing that he had been to Texas. Another time, he told her that he was living in a beautiful three-room apartment in Washington, when in fact he was living in one roach-infested room by the bus terminals of downtown Washington.
And she had reason to wonder. Since leaving home at the age of 16, Eddie Regina had lived in a world that neither she nor anyone else from this tiny Eastern Shore town could understand or imagine. For years her son's life had been spent in the shadowy underworld part of gay Washington -- a world of sleazy gay bars, assorted homosexual lovers, sex for pay, bath houses and drugs.
For a long time the worlds remained separate, and Hall could be skeptical about the stories her son would tell when he returned to Fishing Creek on infrequent visits. Then, this week, the life her son would sometimes tell her about became public knowledge, an object of intense speculation and a key factor in the political future of a powerful politician.
Janet Hall is still no clearer about the life her son led in Washington. Last July, according to Janet Hall and her husband Stanley, they became convinced that their son did know Bauman when an FBI agent named Glenn Tuttle came to their door and told them that Regina was helping the agency build a case against Bauman. But they do not believe that Regina blackmailed Bauman.
When Tuttle came to the house, they say, he asked them if they knew Bauman was a homosexual. They said they did not.
Then, in August, Tuttle and another agent returned to the Hall home with Regina, according to the Halls. "Tuttle said that if Bauman used teen-aged boys he would have to get psychiatric help," said Stanley Hall, a red-bearded fisherman. "He said he was afraid that a person like that could be used as a lever against the nation's national security interests."
Janet and Stanley Hall wonder whether their son was somehow set up by the FBI. It is their only way of explaining the fact that their son, whom they believed to be helping the FBI with information about Bauman, was arrested by the FBI for allegedly blackmailing him.
Tuttle, reached today at the Fbi's Washington field office, declined to comment on the Halls' statements. But other law enforcement officials claim that Regina was more of a witness than an informant. They say that Regina had a relationship with Bauman, that Regina knew Bauman allegedly had solicited the 16-year-old boy, and that Regina took advantage of his knowledge of the FBI's case when he tried to blackmail him.
Regina never expected that Bauman would tell the FBI about his phone calls [saying that he would tell his constituents the details of their relationship unless he was paid $2,000]," said an official in the U.S.Attorney's Office in Baltimore.
In the beginning, it was difficult for the Halls to accept that Regina was a homosexual. "But we learned to live with it," said Janet Hall. "The whole island knew."
In Fishing Creek, population 700, Regina was considered "weird" by neighbors. But ever since Regina was arrested, the neighbors have been phoning the Halls and visiting, offering to help out however they can.
The Halls last saw their son Wednesday morning. "He said he was going for a walk," recalled Regina's brother, David, 22. Hours later, the family learned from a newspaper reporter that Eddie had been arrested by FBI agents in Annapolis.
They did not hear from him until the next day, when he called from the Baltimore City jail. "He said, 'I didn't mean to do this, I'm sorry I disgraced the family,'" said Janet Hall. "I told him to calm down, and I said that mom and daddy love you no matter what."