Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel repeatedly contradicted portions of his previous testimony today during an intense cross-examination by chief federal prosecutor Barnet D. Skolnik.
Mandel changed an important date three times to conform with contradictory evidence cited by Skolnik and several times found himself disputing documentary evidence containing his own signature.
At one point, Skolnik accused Mandel of lying on the witness stand about a loan he received from the Palottine Fathers religious order. "Isn't it a fact," Skolnik said, "that you were not telling the truth when you told the public in December, 1975, that the Pallottines had nothing to do with your divorce? That you did not tell the truth to Archbishop Borders (William D. Borders of Baltimore) in repeating (it) in June of '76 and that you are today telling the same falsehood because you are locked in by having lied about it twice in the past?"
"That is not true and you know it," Mandel shot back.
The prosecutor was reviewing with Mandel the allegation that $350,000 worth of gifts Mandel received from his five codefendants were actually bribes he received in secret transactions.
Today's confrontation - the second of at least three days of cross-examination - was the angriest so far. The tone was set early when Skolnik, dissatisfied with one of Mandel's answers, interrupted the governor.
"I would appreciate it if you would let me ask the question," Skolnik said. "Yesterday we spent a lot of time getting answers to questions I was not asking.
Mandel was scrappy, sometimes pounding with his right arm and fist, which he had held limp since he suffered what his doctors called a small stroke in April.
Mandel used the different dates when telling the jury how he discovered that a $42,000 loan he received to help him pay alimony actually came from the Pallottine Fathers. Because two codefendants, W. Dale Hess and Harry W. Rodgers III, helped Mandel obtain that money, prosecutors consider it one of the bribes.
First, Mandel said he discovered the role of the Pallottine Fathers several months before he was indicted in November, 1975. Then, he said it was later than that, he didn't remember the "exact date," but it was some time after December, 1975, when his attorney unraveled the facts. Finally, Mandel claimed that he never really did know "the whole picture" of the loans.
Skolnik quoted from a December 11, 1975, Mandel press conference in which the governor said "I never borrowed any money for my divorce" from the Pallottines.
The statement, Mandel said, was "absolutely correct." The money was "not for the purpose of obtaining the divorce" but for meeting a divorce payment.
Skolnik then reminded Mandel that he told Archbishop Borders in June, 1976, that the Pallottines had "absolutely nothing to do with your divorce or with your alimony payments."
"I certainly did," Mandel said without hesitation, reciting how the newspapers had treated the Catholic order to "unfair abuse," by reporting the origin of the loan.
"I told him (Borders) that in no way were they (Pallottines) involved in money for my divorce," Mandel said. He then modified the date when he discovered the order's role. "I had asked (Arnold N.) Weiner (his attorney) to find out all the circumstances and it took him quite a while to unravel what those circumstances were . . . I never knew the whole picture," Mr. Skolnik."
The documentary evidence figuring in today's testimony was a contract containing Mandel's signature. It used the word "partnership" to describe Mandel's relationship with Hess in the Security Investment Company, a real estate firm that leases buildings to the Social Security Administration outside Baltimore. Prosecutors contend that Hess gave Mandel a share of the firm as a bribe. Mandel claimed that he only received $15,000 in income from the firm as payment of "legal fees" Hess owed him from legal services Mandel performed before he became governor.
Despite use of the word "partnership" on the contract he was holding, Mandel kept repeating that "a share of the income was all I received, that's all I got."
Most of the afternoon was taken up with Mandel's repeated denials that the partnership meant what it said. Mandel claimed that he didn't know the partnership included an $8 million building leased out for 20 years at $27 million to Social Security.
"The only thing that existed is income," Mandel said firmly. "You are not answering my question," Skolnik said.
Reiterating facts documented in evidence that Security Investment had millions in assets. Mandel kept to his claim: "I didn't know what they had . . . Mr. Hess didn't tell me."
Another contradiction arose in questioning Mandel about the two loans he got from the Pallotine Fathers. Skolnik asked the governor why he went to the fund-raising Catholic order for money instead of to a bank.
"There was no bank I could go to . . . I had no assets. I had given all my assets away," Mandel answered.
"You didn't go to a bank because you did not think as governor of Maryland you could get a loan from a bank?" Skolnik asked.
Four months later, Skolnik noted, Mandel did get a $25,000 loan from the Mercantile Trust Bank in Baltimore.
Maryland's chief executive protrayed himself as uninformed about details of two real estate transactions that federal prosecutors contend were bribes that offered to Mandel a potential income of about $185,000.
In response to questions from Skolnik about legal documents in the two ventures, Ray's Point, Inc., and Security Investment Co., Mandel indicated that the decisions were made by others who merely "explained it to me."
At one point, Mandel said, "I am not a person of the business world."
He owned 15 per cent of the Eastern Shore real estate venture known as Ray's Point, yet he said he played no part in the decision to have his 15 per cent share of the stock held in the name of a nominee (codefendant W. Dale Hess) and to have the corporation's minutes rewritten so his name would be deleted.
If the only purpose of accepting an interest in Security Investment were to enable Hess to pay him the $15,000, Skolnik asked, why didn't Mandel just let Hess pay him the money out of Hess' share of the income.
The governor said that Hess probably was "heavily mortgaged" and needed part of the income, projected at $500 to $600 a month, for himself.
Mandel said he wasn't worried about the details of the agreement, only that it was going to give him money.
"He [Hess] handed me a check the day he handed me the document," the governor said. "It had income. That's what I was interested in, getting the income to pay off" the legal fees Hess owed him. "I'm not a person of the business world. To me, when you get income, that's a profit."
Several times during the prolonged exchanges between the prosecutor and the governor, Weiner, Mandel's lawyer, jumped to his feet and implored Judge Robert Taylor to require Skolnik to withdraw a particular question, or at least rephrase it.
Mandel ignored Weiner's objections several times and once said, in one of his frequent asides to the judge, "Do I have a say in this?" The judge said he certainly did, and Weiner conceded, 'he's the boss."