BALTIMORE, NOV. 5 -- A federal jury began pondering the fate of Maryland politicians Clarence and Michael Mitchell today after hearing pleas by opposing attorneys to convict or acquit the two brothers of conspiring to block a congressional investigation of the scandal-stained Wedtech Corp.

The jury did not reach a verdict after two hours' deliberation late today and was sent home by U.S. District Judge Norman P. Ramsey. The panel was scheduled to reconvene at 9 a.m. Friday, when the trial will be in its 10th day.

Former Maryland state senator Clarence M. Mitchell III and state Sen. Michael B. Mitchell, both Democrats, are charged with accepting $110,000 from Wedtech, in part to stop an investigation of the New York-based firm in 1984 and 1985 by the House Small Business Committee, headed by the Mitchells' uncle, then-Rep. Parren J. Mitchell (D-Md.).

If convicted, the Mitchells could each receive a maximum of 25 years in prison.

The committee was looking into allegations that Wedtech, a Hispanic-owned firm, received preferential treatment, including help from the White House, in getting lucrative no-bid military contracts set aside for minority firms. Several Wedtech officers have pleaded guilty to various bribery and larceny charges in New York in connection with the now bankrupt firm. Parren Mitchell is not a defendant and has been called an "unwitting victim" in the case.

In final arguments to the jury here today, prosecutors described the Mitchell brothers as greedy political fixers ready to exploit the name of their uncle, while defense attorneys portrayed them as respected lobbyists offering proper legal and contract consulting services.

"This deal had payoff written all over it," said prosecutor Max H. Lauten, adding that a $50,000 retainer letter the Mitchells signed with Wedtech was a "sham agreement" that produced no legal work by the Mitchells.

"Hired lobbyists?" scoffed prosecutor Gary P. Jordan. "These men promised to get Parren Mitchell off {Wedtech's} back even before they knew what the problem was. Is that lobbying?"

In contrast, defense attorney Abbe D. Lowell argued that lobbying, even with relatives, is legal and is done every day in Washington, as long as it involves such permissible tactics as persuasion, reason and presentation of documentary evidence. He said that while Wedtech may have hoped to stop the investigation by illegal means, there was no evidence the Mitchells were thinking in those terms.

If the Mitchells had embarked on an illegal scheme, Lowell said, they would have dealt in cash, rather than drawing up a formal retainer agreement, accepting payments by check, asking the company for documents relating to the investigation and "leaving a paper trail a mile long."

Defense attorneys also attacked the credibility of prosecution witnesses, several of them convicted Wedtech officers who have signed cooperative agreements with prosecutors in exchange for lesser charges and possibly lighter sentences.

"Like circus ponies, they've learned to run around the ring" at the government's bidding, said defense attorney Edward Smith.

In many ways, the trial became a word game with attorneys and witnesses alike debating the meaning of terms used by the Mitchells and Wedtech officers in discussing how to stop the congressional probe.

Lowell said that Wedtech officers used such words as "kill," "stop" and "squash," while one officer, Richard Strum, quoted the Mitchells as saying only that they would "correct the problem."

Lowell argued that none of the language suggested the Mitchells planned to use illegal means of pursuading their uncle to stop the probe.

Prosecutors countered that the general tenor of the Wedtech-Mitchell agreement -- preceded by "frantic meetings" and an inital $50,000 payment rushed by hand delivery from New York to Baltimore -- set the stage for a "corrupt endeavor."

"Of course, there was no open talk of bribery," said Lauten. " . . . It's innuendo. It's winks. It's nods . . . . It's talk about big payoffs."

Lauten said there was no need to prove corrupt acts or influence by the Mitchells, simply a conspiracy by them to lead Wedtech to believe that they would "exploit {their} special relationship" with Parren Mitchell to stop the investigation.

Both Lauten and Jordan argued that key evidence of the Mitchells' "corrupt endeavor" was a secret kickback of one-third of their Wedtech retainer to Wedtech consultant Anthony Loscalzo for steering Wedtech's business to them.