The diamond bracelet was won in a friendly political bet. Christmas, birthdays, unwritten agreements and a sticky divorce settlement accounted for most of the other gifts worth $350,000 that Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel today admitted he received as loans or favors from his friends and codefendants.
But it was an "exchange," Mandel told the jurors ar his own political corruption trial, not brobery, as alleged by federal prosecutors. With his friend and codefendant Irvin Kovens, benefactor of some $160,000 of those alleged gifts, the exchange "goes back over many years. Many, many years."
"If I went away - I would bring Irv back a gift, "Mandel said. Silk shirt he brought from a goodwill trip to China were given "really more as a joke than anything else," just like the Russian goatskin coat that "I have never seen him wear," Mandel said.
The friends are millionaires. But the six years of gift-exchanging were lean for Mandel, who earn $25,000 a year as governor of Maryland, "the third lowest paid state in the Union as far as governor's salary eas concerned," he said.
Mandel thus found himself on the receiving end.So did his first wife, Barbara, Mandel said as he explained the story behind the $4,5000 diamond bracelet she got from codefendant W. Dale Hess. That bracelet has been a major weapon for prosecutors in their case against Mandel and his friends.
In 1970, when Sargent Shriver was threatening to run against Mandel for governor, "the newspapers were fully of (his) candidacy and how this was going to be very difficult election, that I was going to have all kinds of problems," Mandel said.
His wife declared at one gathering of friends that Shriver would not run. Hess, confident she was wrong, said that "if he doesn't run, we will buy you a bracelet," Mandel testified.
Prosecutors have charged that the bracelet, and assorted vacations, clothes, insurance policies and other expensive presents Mandel received were, in fact, bribes in exchange for which the governor used his office to push legislation beneficial to the Marlboro Race Track, then allegedly owned secretly by codefendants W.Dale Hess, Harry W. ROdgers 111, William A. Rodgers, Ernest N. Cory Jr. and Kovens.
Mandel said he received a %1,358 weekend vacation at an exclusive Florida resort because of a "misunderstanding" that led his friend and codefendant Harry W. Rodgers 111 to pick up the tab.
A diamond engagement ring for his son's fiancee, paid for by Hess according to earlier testimony, was not of consequence to him. Mandel said he was not involved. "
My son . . . 27-year-old practicing attorney . . . He was his own man."
The wardrobe worth some $3.000 was a matter of Christmas, and birthday presents and a dedication of medical center in Israel. For his travel wardrobe for the dedication Mandel testified, Koven bought him $1.500 worth of suits and slacks. "He (Kovens) used to say 'if you're going to be a governor, you have to look like one and you sure don't," Mandel said grinning at Koven.
DFor the two business ventures making up the only antiracjeteering charges in his indictment, Mandel had explanations different from the prosecution's.
The Ray's Point farm enterprise on Maryland's Eastern Shore did not add up to a gift of $45,000 as prosecutors said, Mandel complained. It brought him a loss of $150.
His interest in Hess' Security Investment Company share was repayment for an old debt of six years of unbilled legal services Mandel provided fot to Hess. "We had an understanding . . . that when he had the opportunity, that Mr. Hess would involved me in one of these transactions that he was putting together."
At first Mandel signed an option to accept his debt payment with a 4/10 interest in the Hagerstown Sheration, he testified today. That was signed in 1958 but Mandel said he never exercised his option, he only dedicated the motel when it opened.
"I was up there (in 1969) when the hotel was dedicated. I was there, took part in that and then periodically thereafter I would inquired of Dale how it was doing . . . it was just not profit making."
That understanding was made when Mandel was not governor and when Hess "was operating, I guess you could use the phrase, operating on a shoestring." Ten years and some $3 million later, Hess give Mandel the Security Investment share. Bad publicity around Ray's Point made Mandel demand immediately repayment of the toral $15.000 debt, the governor testified. "I just wanted to withdraw and get out.
For two week at the beginning of this retrial of Mandel, the prosecution team carefully unveiled a different picture of the $350,000 worth of alleged gifts that they scharge Mandel received from his five codefendants.
The gift were not public expressions of friendship, the prosecutors argued, but were hidden through things like laundered loans, money drops by strangers at a New York City airport, back-dated of irritation in his voice. Mandel today showed a toughter side of himself as he answered questions covering these gifts.
When his attorney, Arnold M. Weiner. led him into a question meant to debunk the prosecution's characterization of a vacation trip as lavish, Mandel lashed back.
"The total bill was $3,500 and some add dollars. You figure out that was $350 a day (for 10 days). For nine prople you are talking about $40 a day person . . . It is not expensive."
%itis not cheap," his attorney softly answered.
"It is not cheap, but it is not the kind of expensive vacation that everyone would try to picture it to be."
Evidence showed that the Mandel party ran-up a tab of more than $7.000 during two year-end vacations at the plush resort. Ocean Reef in Florida.
Documents drew a picture of free-spending children of Jeanne Dorsey signing tabs for tennis, glof, Snorkeling, water-skiing, bicycling, food, drinks and clothes. Jeanne Mandel spent $150 for a dress, the governor charged $208 worth of clothing in the golf pro shop, and the party spent $395 renting golf carts, according to prosecutors.
Still unpaid is $1.882 that was being disputed when Mandel became the target of the federal prosecutors.
Of all the major questions raised about Mandel evading public disclosure of his gifts or loand, the governor answered only one - how he handled his Security Investment payments on personal income tax forms in 1973 and 1974. He did not cover it up as prosecutors charged, he said.
He reported $6.065 fron Security Investment as income from his former in-law's firm because he wasn't sure =whichever way it was to be handled . . . as dividends or just income . . . as a corporation or partnership," Mandel testified.
And because his regular accoutant was in the hospital, Mandel testified re relied on another accountant who, looking at the work sheet, put the money under the wrong category.
His 1974 return treated the income simply as "fees", he testified, because he was already out of Security Investment and the money was repayment of pervious legal fees.
The document produced by the prosecution that Hess and Mandel used to prove there was a debt was a letter blackdated four years, according to testimony by hess' personal secretary, Alice H. Riley. She nervously told the jury she had been orderely by Hess to go to and write the dictated agreement for Hess' own income tax return.
The governor virtually ignored the sinister tone of the prosecution's version of how his son's engagement ring was pruchased.
Jeweler Abel Fischer testified that a mysterious "man in green" had delivered a brown paper bag stuffed with $3,316 to him at New York City's Jennedy International Airport as payment for the ring.
The governor dismissed this as a small shopping trip his son Gary made with his mother and sister. They picked out a ring, came back to Annapolis and said that Fischer told them "he would call Mr. Hess and arrange the price."
"That was the end of it . . . as far as I was concerned," he said.
Mandel's testimony about Bargara Mandel's diamond-and-platinum bracelet neither disputed nor conmfirmed the government's testimony, but rather dealt with the matter on a different level.
Fischer, the jeweler, testified that Hess had summoned him to fly from New York on Dec. 19, 1970, arranged for him to be picked up at the Baltimore airport by a driven to the state house in Annapolis, where he displayed half a dozen bracelets from which Barbara Mandel chose one.
Mandel picked up the story from there, saying Fischer "discussed the relative merits of each one and what he tought about it, and then he insisted that we just hold the bracelett and make sure that shs likes it."
Mandel said Fischer said he would "get in touch with Dale and he would straigten it out. He never did mention, and wouldn't mention, the cost of it," Mandel said.saying that indicated to him that Fischer knew the bracelet was a gift.
Twonof Mandel's gifts of clothing fell near either his birthday or Christmas and were described by him a presents for those ocassions.
But the major shopping spree $1,500 worth of clothes purchase at a Baltimore men's shop - marked the celebration of one of Kovens' successful fund-raising ventures.
Mandel testified that he had been duest speaker at a dinner sponsored by Kovens that earned ehough money to build a medical center in Israel. The Israelis were so pleased that they named the hospital the Maryland Medical Center and invited the governor to dedicate it.
On Kovens' orders. Mandel agreed to buy a new wardrobe for the trip at a Baltimore clothier's. It had to be early, before normal opening hours mandel said, because he was planning a surprise visit to Spring Grove Hospital to check on the facilities for the mentally disturbed.
"When I finally told Mr. Kovans that I would go . . . he said to me, Well if you're going to go over and dedicate the building, you've got to look better than you do now . . . I went and the center is still there and still flourishing.
Mandel said he got into Ray's Point (the Eastern Shore Land venture) as the result of "looking for two or three-acre piece of groung down on the Eastern Shore, feeling that after my term of office was up, that I would retire down there . . ."
Former House Speaker Thomas Hunter Lowe, who lived on the Eastern Shore, was helping Mandl find the right spot when he came upon Ray's Point, which Mandel said Lowe described as "a beautiful farm that's going on the market.
It was more than he needed or could afford, Mandel said, but Lowe suggested that maybe they could "put together a group that would it because he thought it could be bought at the right price."
Mandel said involved in a lot of real estate transactions at the time, and with Harry Rodgers, they put together a combine that they bought the farm.