U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Taylor today denied motions by five codefendants of Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel to move their political corruption trial out of the state.
Judge a Taylor, presiding over the first court session in the case since his predecessor, Judge John M. Pratt, declared a mistrial Dec. 7, set April 13 as the date for the retrial, two days after the Maryland General Assembly ends its session for the year.
Taylor, a 77-year-old Tennessee judge who timed with a clock each defense and prosecuting attorney's arguments to prevent their rambling on, also denied defense motions to dismiss the charges against the governor and his fellow defendants an motions to delay the retrail for five or more months.
Defendants Harry W. Rodgers III and W. Dale Hess submitted a defense-commissioned statewide poll of Maryland residents to the court in support of their motions for a change of trial location. That poll, one defense attorney told judge Taylor, showed that "63 per cent of the people surveyed believe "might be guilty."
The results of the poll were being withheld, however, pending a ruling by judge Taylor on a motion by prosecutor Barnet D. Skolnik to seal the document until a new jury is selected.
The lawyers seeking a change of venue had cited the extensive publicity about the 13-week trial, before it was aborted with the prosecution having completed its case and the defense just beginning its presentation.
In addition, there was equally widespread media reporting of alleged jury tampering efforts that finally caused the declaration of a mistrial.
After more than four hours of arguments on the various motions yesterday, Judge Taylor, who noted that he has an afternoon plane flight to Tennessee to catch, took only 10 minutes to rattle off his decisions with such speed that he barely had time to say "denied" after each ruling.
Shifting back and forth from folksy friendliness to fist-shaking, table pounding testiness, Judge Taylor made clear his desire to simplify and expedite the complicated case. He took under advisement whether defendant Irvin Kovens - who was not tried during the first trial - should once again be severed from the retrial because of his health.
The original trial of the governor. Hess, the Rodgers brothers and Ernest Cory on charges of mail fraud and and raceteering lasted more than 13 weeks last fall before it was declared a mistrial after several jurors heard a television new bulletin about two jury-tampering attempts.
The 23-count indictment accuses Mandel, Kovens and the other four defendants of viloting a federal anto racketeering and fraud statutes. Mandel, the indictment alleges, received bribe of vacations, jewelry and business interests in return for favorably influencing racetrack legislation that would benefit a track secretly owned by his codefendants.
The trial date was set for April 13 because "this court does not feel justifield in taking the governor away that legislature until that legislature adjourness." Taylor said.
Then, with a knowing smile on his face, the 77-year-old judge made one of his frequent refrences to his home state of Tennessee, where he sits as a U.S. district judge in Knoxville.
"The court understands" the need for a governor's presence at a legislative session. Taylor was a governor" (George C. Taylor was a Tennessee governor in the 1920s).
At one point defense attorney William G. Hundley who represents Hess, argued that the trial should be moved out of Maryland to a city such as Knoxville because people there "don't read the Maryland papers or The Washington Post."
Judge Taylor interjected. "Some of them (there) don't read much of anything."
The courtroom burst into laughter, Judge Taylor chuckling along with everyone else. But 20 minutes later, in the midst of prosecutor Sklnik's rebuttal argument, Taylor noted a little sheepishly, "I do hope you know I was being facetious (about Knoxville) . . . We've got some of the most intelligent people in the world there."
However, the short balding jurist who had presided over the political corruption trial and conviction of former Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner in 1973, made it clear throughout the morning that he would tolerate no delays, no secrecy, no superflous arguments or issues, and no backtalk.
Kovens' attorney. Norman Ramsay discovered this when he attempted to press his argument on Judge Taylor that Kovens should not be tired with the others on April 13.
The judge tuned on Ramsay and said, hammering the bench with his fist and waving his arms, "I don't want counsel to argue with the court. If the court's ruled it's ruled."
Attorney Thomas C. Green, who represents defendant Harry Rodgers, argued during the representation of the poll results that "the fate on the codefendants is inextricably tied to the fate of Mandel."
If Hess and Rodgers had been granted their request for a trial outside of Maryland, the effect would have been to sever their cases from that of Mandel, who specifically requested a trial within the state.
Prosecutor Skolnik argued against public release of the poll because "it will produce publicity of the very nature about which the defendants are now complaining."
Taylor's preoccupation with the clock was almost equalled by his repeatedly avowed dislike of secrecy. Early in the hearing when one attorney was explaining a problem, the attorney asked to confer privately with the judge at the bench.
"No. You may speak out," responded the judge.
Later, when Skolnik asked that the poll be sealed, the judge said grumpily, "I don't believe in this secrecy. I believe we should do these things in the open . . . In my jurisdiction we don't seal anything."