Maryland state Sen. Tommie Broadwater Jr., currently on trial here on food stamp fraud charges, paid a nighttime visit earlier this week to a government witness scheduled to testify against him, Broadwater's attorney acknowledged today.
Responding to published reports that Broadwater had gone to the home of a former employe of Broadwater's suburban Maryland supermarket to ask him why he was "out to get him," defense attorney R. Kenneth Mundy told reporters the purpose of the visit was innocent--to get the witness' telephone number--and "there was no intimidation or threat."
He denied Broadwater made any "out-to-get-him" remarks to the witness, Leon Holmes of Arlington, Va., but Mundy said his own decision to let Broadwater make the visit was probably a "misjudgment."
News accounts of the visit, which appeared in today's editions of The Washington Times, sent Broadwater's trial in federal court here into momentary turmoil. Defense attorneys, outside the presence of the jury of eight women and four men, asked presiding Judge Norman P. Ramsey to re-emphasize his instruction to the jurors not to read any newspaper accounts of the trial.
Several attorneys not involved in the trial agreed privately that Mundy's willingness to let his client visit a potential witness against him was done in poor judgment. It could result in possible disciplinary action against him by professional law organizations, some said, while others said the matter did not appear to warrant discipline.
The account quoted Holmes, a former employe of Broadwater's Chapel Oaks Farmers Market in Fairmount Heights, as saying that Broadwater came to his Arlington home Tuesday night and asked him "why I was out to get him."
Holmes, according to the account, said he was "shocked" at Broadwater's action but added that Broadwater did not threaten him or ask him not to testify. Holmes is scheduled to testify Friday or Saturday.
Mundy told reporters outside the courtroom that he and other defense attorneys had asked government prosecutors on Tuesday to give them Holmes' address and telephone number--a routine request--so the talk to him before he testified.
Mundy said the prosecutors gave him Holmes' address in Arlington but no pid he was "tied up" with other duties Tuesday and agreed to let Broadwater go to Holmes' residence to get the Mundy said today Secret Service agents questioned Holmes about the meeting and are satisfied that Broadwaterhe telephone number and left.
Several private lawyers with criminal trial experience here said today it is proper, though uncommon, for ds to contact government witnesses about their potential testimony. To allow a defendant in a criminal case to ent witness, however, "would be inappropriate" under any circumstances, said one high-ranking official in the torney General's Office. "There are potential ramifications for disciplinary action," he said.
The trial ofcodefendants entered its sixth day today with a string of Secret Service and Agriculture Department agents des kept the defendants under surveillance last winter during what prosecutors said was a series of transactions in purportedly stolen food stamps from an undercover agent and launder them through Broadwater's supermarket. . .