Irvin Kovens, the Baltimore political boss who went to prison last spring with his protege, former Maryland governor Marvin Mandel, will be paroled in two weeks because of poor health.
Kovens, 61, underwent heart surgery on Oct. 6 at the federal prison hospital in Lexington, Ky., where he had been transferred from Eglin (Fla.) Federal Prison Camp.
The U.S. Parole Commission, which earlier had denied the parole requests of Kovens, Mandel and two other men found guilty of corruption, announced that three national commissioners voted on Thursday to release Kovens on Nov. 21 because of his deteriorating medical condition.
William G. Hundley, acting as Kovens' lawyer (his trial lawyer is now a federal judge in Baltimore), said yesterday that although the heart bypass surgery performed last month was a success, Kovens is suffering "circulatory difficulty in one of his legs" that may require additional surgery.
Without this week's action, Kovens, like Mandel and two other codefendants, would not have been paroled until 1982.
Kovens, Mandel and four others were convicted in August 1977 on federal charges of mail fraud and racketeering for participating in a scheme in which Mandel received $350,000 worth of gifts in exchange for using his influence on legislation that enriched the others because of a race track they secretly owned.
Kovens was a force in Maryland politics long before his protege, Mandel, rose through the state legislature to become governor. It was Kovens, according to testimony at the trial, who bought Mandel $2,333 worth of suits and provided $150,000 worth of tax-free bonds for Mandel's alimony settlement with Mandel's first wife.
The gravelly voiced Kovens took a paternal interest in Mandel, nurturing Mandel's political career along the serpentine path of big-city politics to the highest rung of state government.
Kovens was loyal to Mandel throughout their grueling four-year legal battle, and according to codefendant W. Dale Hess, it was Kovens, with help from Hess and brothers Harry W. and William A. Rodgers, who paid Mandel's staggering legal bills.
Until he became ill in late summer, Kovens had adjusted well to prison life, quickly establishing himself as a leader of his fellow inmates.
"We've got it all worked out," Kovens was reported to have explained to one visitor. "Marvin's in the laundry, Harry (Rodgers) is in the kitchen, and I'm taking care of the books."
Kovens and Harry Rodgers began their three-year sentences at Eglin on May 16, three days before Mandel joined them at the minimum security prison in the Florida panhandle. Hess is serving his three years at a Maxwell, Ala., prison camp. William A. Rodgers is performing one year of community service in Baltimore, and the sixth defendant, Ernest N. Cory, was given a suspended sentence.