Black partisan political leaders in Prince George's County met yesterday in support of state Sen. Tommie Broadwater Jr. (D-Prince George's), who was charged with food-stamp fraud two weeks ago.
"These people came out to support him," said Prince George's County Council member Hilda Pemberton.
The group of about 200, which gathered at the Glenarden Municipal Center, also issued a statement in support of all black officials.
The meeting was a regularly scheduled town meeting in Broadwater's 25th District. But it was the first since the 40-year-old, three-term Democrat declared business bankruptcy of his Fairmount Heights' Chapel Oaks Farmers Market and was charged with trafficking illegally in $70,000 worth of food stamps.
Some of the food stamps were allegedly redeemed through the Farmers Market.
Delegates Albert Wynn, Francis J. Santangelo and Sylvania Woods Jr., along with County Council member Pemberton, Council Vice Chairman Floyd Wilson, and Mary Godfrey from the county executive's office, also addressed the group.
"I filed bankruptcy last January to protect me and my family," said Broadwater, who is also a bail bondsman and owner of a nightclub in Fairmount Heights.
Broadwater said he was innocent of food-stamp fraud, although he declined to discuss the investigation.
"I feel fairly confident that I'm going to win this case . . . " he said. "I'm not going to let them blow my mind." In response to those who said he should resign from the Senate, Broadwater said, "I'm not going to let anyone condemn me before my time."
The ad hoc group passed a resolution supporting all black leaders in the county.
"Black elected officials are under siege," said Wayne Curry, a local lawyer, who is setting up a legal defense fund for Broadwater.
Also attending the meeting was former county jail chief Arnett Gaston, the highest-ranking black in county government until he resigned last week after allegations of mismanagement at the jail. Asked if there was a conspiracy against black officials in the county, Gaston said, "Even Ray Charles can see that."