The Post's Nov. 15 editorial misapprehends the facts that resulted in Marvin Mandel's conviction in 1977. The trial of Mr. Mandel and his co-conspirators was based on his receipt of bribes at the same time he was taking action (both legislative and executive) to aid his benefactors. Although the federal mail-fraud law in 1977 did not require that the corrupt quid pro quo nexus between Mr. Mandel's receipt of the bribes and his official actions be proven as an element of the crime, the jury could not -- and would not -- have convicted the defendants if it had not so found. The jury had to find a corrupt relationship to find a deprivation of honest government.

The editorial quoted from Judge Frederick Smalkin's opinion to the effect that this conduct was "fishy and perhaps dishonest," and those words, according to The Post, "don't make a criminal case." Let it be remembered that a jury of 12 Maryland citizens concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Mandel and his codefendants, with specific criminal intent, were guilty of engaging in a scheme to defraud the citizens of Maryland and of racketeering, under the then-accepted interpretation of the law.

If the jury had been required to find a deprivation of a property right, it would have done so. Judge Smalkin has vacated the convictions based on the narrow legal ground of the jury instructions. To suggest, as the editorial does, that Mr. Mandel committed no crime does a gross injustice to the compelling facts elicited at trial and to the considered judgment of 12 responsible jurors. BRECKINRIDGE L. WILLCOX U.S. Attorney, District of Maryland Baltimore