ANNAPOLIS, FEB. 4 -- State Sen. Michael B. Mitchell, on the eve of sentencing for his conviction in the Wedtech case, urged Senate colleagues today to "stand tall" because they could be the targets of unfair prosecution.
In a speech on the Senate floor, the Baltimore Democrat also called charges by the Maryland's Attorney Grievance Commission that he misappropriated money intended for a client's mortgage payments a "smear attempt."
Mitchell and his brother, former state senator Clarence Mitchell III, are scheduled for sentencing Friday on obstruction and wire fraud charges for accepting $50,000 to influence a congressional investigation into Wedtech, a New York defense contractor. That investigation was headed by the Mitchells' uncle, Rep. Parren Mitchell (D-Md.).
Michael Mitchell, 42, who said he will attend his final floor session Friday, will lose his Senate seat when he is sentenced. He was elected in 1986 to fill the seat vacated by his brother Clarence.
"I say to you stand tall," said Mitchell, saying he hoped his case had not cast "aspersions" on the Senate. "The responsibility is to the constituents, the people we represent."
He counseled Senate colleagues to watch for "selective prosecution," saying, "If it happened to me, it will happen to you."
Mitchell said after his speech that though he has been frustrated with the legal process, he plans to fight his convictions "to the end" to clear his name.
In a complaint filed with the Maryland Court of Appeals last week, Maryland's Attorney Grievance Commission alleges that Mitchell misappropriated more than $34,000 in mortgage payments he agreed to make for a legal client.
The commission alleges that Mitchell spent most of the money given to him by the owner of a Baltimore beauty supply firm.
Court papers said that within two days of being notified by the commission that the businessman, Robert Sanders, filed a complaint against him, Mitchell paid the outstanding mortgage. The panel is seeking disciplinary action against Mitchell.
Mitchell already stands to lose his license to practice law in Maryland as a result of his conviction on federal wire fraud and obstruction convictions.