By connecting the code name "Zar" to a page in the 1972-73 Baltimore telephone directory, federal prosecutors today produced the first direct evidence that Irvin Kovens. Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel's closest friend and financial benefactor, was the secret majority stockholder in the Marlboro Race Track.
"Zar" or "Czar" was the code name used by the other track owners for the man who owned 60 per cent of the track, according to testimony, and evidence presented today identified Kovens as that person. The majority owner stood to gain the most from the alleged scheme to defraud the state that makes up the core of the charges in the political corruption trial of Mandel, Kovens and four codefendants.
Each secret owner of the track had a code name: W. Dale Hess, once a farmer was "country boy," while the brothers William A. Rodgers and Harry W. Rodgers III were "city boys." But "Zar" alternately spelled "Czar," was one code not broken outside the select circle of owners, according to testimony today.
Katherine O'Toole, former personal secretary to Marlboro attorney and codefendant Ernest N. Cory Jr. testified that Cory identified all the other code names to her but vowed "he was not going to tell anybody who the Czar was."
It was a business card of Cory's and a dog-eared piece of paper folded repeatedly and carried in Cory's wallet for 2 1/2 years that finally linked a 60 per cent share to "Zar," and "Zar" to Kovens.
The piece of paper, presented today by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Hurson, contained a breakdown of the shares held each code-named person, including the 60 per cent for "Z."
On the back of Cory's business card was scrawled the name "Dale, and the telephone number for W. Dale Hess. The initial "Z" also appeared with two telephone numbers. Both numbers belonged to Kovens, according to the telephone directory page introduced today.
Prosecutors have charged that Kovens gave hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of favors to Mandel and members of Mandel's family, including assistance in the governor's 1974 divorce settlement with his first wife. In return for those favors and gifts from the other codefendants, Mandel allegedly pushed for state actions designed to benefit the secretly owned racetrack.
Because of an agreement signed in 1970 with the businessmen who bought Charles Town (W. Va.) racetrack from him, Kovens was forbidden to buy a competing track for five years. Prosecutors allege that Kovens created layers of cover - layers deeper than the other codefendants - to hide his interest. He allegedly used a front man named Irvin T. (Tubby) Schwartz to conceal his ownership.
Since the federal investigation got under way three years ago, other codefendants have admitted in interviews that they owned part of the now-defunct Marlboro track. Kovens has vehemently maintained his denial of any ownership, however.
To find "Zar," the prosecutors first explored Cory's daily desk calendar. On Jan. 28, 1972, for example, there was a meeting noted between "Zar," the "country boy," the "city boys" and another man about "R.T." (race track) that consumed an hour.
The detective work was unveiled while O'Toole, nicknamed "Lovey," was on the witness stand. Her colorful testimony - which she had not given when she testified in the first Mandel trial - caused more controversy among defense lawyers than the documents introduced.
Cory, she said, had once asked to use her name on records to conceal soneone else's ownership of racetrack stock. "Mr. Cory," she said she responded, "the difference between you and me is, you ain't got no scruples."
Cory allegedly fired back, "You will find out one day, little lady, that you can't eat scruples for breakfast."
"I found out you can't," O'Toole told the jury today, ". . . but you sleep better."
There were innumerable objections to such testimony, but did not deter Cory's former secretary.
The greatest commotion broke out when O'Toole quoted Cory as saying. "The natives in Annapolis are getting restless . . . we're going to have to feed them a little something."
O'Toole testified that Cory made that statement on May 4. 1973, when he asked her to deliver a "big, fat manila envelope" to the Tidewater building office for Hess and the Rodgers brothers. She testified that she fired back with the question. "Is there something in that package that is going to be feeding the natives in Annapolis?"
"How do you think we got the votes to override that veto," Cory answered, according to O'Toole, apparently in reference to the 1972 override of a Mandel veto that led to windfall profits for the Marlboro Race Track.
Away from the jury's ears, O'Toole testified that she was reluctant to hand deliver the manila package to Tidewater because of an earlier experience with Cory.
Once, she said, Cory returned to the office and dumped the contents of another big envelope, scattering dollar bills all over his desk. "How's that for bringing home the bacon," she said he had exclaimed.
The details of this earlier package incident was not brought up before the jury.
O'Toole also testified that Cory was summoned one day by Hess to a hurried meeting "with the governor" sometime in 1972. She elaborated on the relationship between Hess and Mandel with knowledge she said was imparted to her by Cory.
In relation to the racetrack, O'Toole said, Cory told her that "Mr. Hess was direct pipeline to the governor."
Later that year, she testified, Cory told her that "newsmen were forever hounding Gov. Mandel and that occasionally he would want to use a law office that was in the backwaters that newsmen wouldn't necessarily be aware of."
Cory's office in Laurel was used to put together the Ray's Point real estate venture on the Eastern Shore, an element in the charges of bribery made by the prosecution in its 23-count indictment.
"Mr. Cory told me that . . . through the relationship with Mr. Hess they would refer cases to Mr. Cory's office," O'Toole testified.
Since the Marlboro Race Track is the single example presented by the government of Mandel allegedly using his public office for the benefit of his friends, the new evidence presented against Kovens and his ownership was crucial.
In 1972, the Maryland General Assembly - allegedly with Mandel's help - overrode an earlier Mandel veto allowing the track to double its days for holding races, thereby automatically increasing its profits. Mandel's friends purchased the track during the interim of the veto and the override.
That same year the legislature pondered but finally avoided action on a bill called the "consolidation bill" that would have added in its original from another 58 days to Marlboro's schedule.
There was a struggle during this, the second attempt to try the case, to gain through subpoena Cory's calendar pages showing "Zar" or "Czar" at meetings involving the racetrack.
Charles Bernstein-Cory's lawyer, filed a motion to quash that subpoena in mid-June, but Judge Robert Taylor ruled against him. Bernstein took his case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond but lost again and 10 days ago the evidence was produced from the subpoena.
Although this battle over Cory's calendar was public, until today it was not known how significant those pages were.
The only evidence presented earlier about Kovens' alleged ownership of the racetrack was indirect and involved "mistakes or errors" comitted by Schwartz in the paper work covering his shares of the Marlboro track.