Federal prosecutors closed their case against Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel today, portraying him as the architect of a seven-year scheme to "cheat the citizens" out of his honest services by placing himself in the "pocket" of wealthy friends.
The governor sat ashen-faced as prosecutors ridiculed his defense arguments accused him of lying and described the governor an his five co-defendants as men "so powerful and so arrogant . . .that they felt they were above the law."
In the cavernous courtroom so quiet a distant telephone could be heard ringing, Liebman and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Hurson summed up the government's case after 10 weeks of evidence and testimony. The defense lawyers will give their case after 10 weeks of evidence and testimony. The defense lawyers will give their final agruments Monday and the case is expected to go to the jury by Tuesday.
All of the defendants - Mandel and his friends W. Dale Hess, Irvin Kovens, Harry W. Rogers and Ernest N. Cory Jr., 'face possible prison terms and, Mandel and Cory, disbarment if convivted.
The losers in this case, Hurson said, are the citizens of Maryland who "lost the impartial and faithful services of their governor" and the truth "systematically debased and disregarded by this group of men."
Madel is accused of accepting jewelry, clothing, business interests and free vacations from the codefendants in exchange for helping them obtain passage of legislation benefiting Marlboro Race Track, which they allegedly owned secretly after late 1971.
The defendants "are smart," Liebman said. "They knew that to get what they wanted, they would have to make Marvin Mandel happy and keep Marvin Madel happy."
"If MarvinMandel, the governor of the state of Maryland, cannot afford to go down to the Ocean Reef Club in Florida where movie stars vacation, then he shouldn't be there, plain and simple as that. But, you see, Marvin Mandel has some friends, all that Marvin Mandel's friends want is to make Marvin Mandel happy," Liebman said, decribing a free Florida trip they allegedly gave Mandel.
Liebman described in sarcastic tones the defense explanations for some of these gifts, such as a $4,500 diamond bracelet given to Mandel's first wife, Barbara.
One witness, Liebman recalled, said Barbara Mandel won the bracelet in a bet with W. Dale Hess. "Harry Rodgers, he tells us, no no, no no. No, it didn't happen quite that way. I paid for it because, you see. Barbara Mandel, she worked so hard in that election, and golly gee, I really wanted to give her a gift . . . We are not talking about a Timex Wrist watch here. We are talking about a $4,500 diamond bracelet."
"Clothing," Liebman said. "OK, friends will give gifts of clothing. Nothing wrong with that. Christmas time, a birthday. How does Marvin Mandel get gifts of clothing from his friends? . . . Marvin Mandel walks in by himself. The door is closed. He buys clothes. He walks out anf IrvKovens pays for it. Is that how friends give gifts of clothing?
"You think about that," Liebman told the jury. "Use your common sense."
Liebman set up the day's arguments by explaining that a scheme to establish a corrupt relationship doesn't begin when "a bunch of men and women get together in some-body's conference room and draw articles of scheming up . . . Your common sense will tell you that."
He described first defendant W. Dale Hess, Mandel's closet friend in the General Assembly, who gave up "a promising political career" to enter business when Mandel became governor in 1969.
And where did he go into business? Liebman asked rhetorically. "To the Tidewater Insurance agency (run by Rodgers brothers) where he became a vice president, although he had never sold an insurance policy, Liebman answered.
Hess had "an asset that Harry and Bill Rodgers were willing to pay for," said Liebman. He had "a very, very close friend who had just become Dale Hess, if they benefited Dale Rodgers waned to take advantage of that. The boys at Tidewater knew, ladies and gentlemen, that the friendship could make them a lot of money, all of them. They knew that if they benefited Dale Hess, they knew that Dale Hess would take care of Marvin Mandel."
Both prosecutors described Irvin kovens as the "closet friend Mandel had on earth, the man he was most likely to smile on." Kovens was the brains of the racing industry in Maryland, as well as the money, they said.
Liebman ridiculed Mandel's explanation that some of the money he received was actually "legal fees" he was owned by Hess for services he performed before becoming governor.
"What documents are there to tell an outside observer that this is really legal fees?" Liebman said. "There are some phonied-up check spreads, some reased and written-over check stubs and a fraudulent, back-dated letter. Those are the documents that prove that Marvin Mandel . . . got legal fees.
The alledged race track coverup as described by prosecutors was a series of lies, fraudulent letters and Phony documents prepared from December, 1971, until the November, 1975, indictment of all defendants.
The day Mandel vetoed and important bill, Kovens asked his lawyer if he could buy the Marlboro track, Liebman said. The month that racetrack was bought, Mandel received from codefendants shares in two business ventures worth almost $200,000 to him. From the day Mandel took office he did these benefits and gifts through mistakes and lies on his tax returns and in his public press conferences, Liebman said.
After describing how Mandel admitted he lobbied for the bill benefiting the track in 1972, Hurson told the jury to consider Mandel's claim that he was "fond of the legislation . . . or whether he was fond of Harry, Bill, Dale and Irv."
"Mr. Mandel, of course, in all of these cases, would tell you I don't know. I didn't know they owned the track. They never told me . . . It begins to sound a little bit like Noah looking out of the window out of the porthole of the ark in the middle of the flood and saying to no one in particular, gee, I didn't know it was raining. It was raining. It was raining benefits for th Marlboro Race Track, and the governor knew.
Mandel's cover-uo began in December, 1972, when his friends wanted to disclose publicly that they owned the track. Hurson said, and Mandel "scothed them coming clean . . . It was not a proud moment for the citizens of the state of Maryland."
The prosecutors contended that the cover-up of the benefits and the ownership of the track was tantamount to guilt in this case. Liebman told the jury that if they brought back a verdict of guilty they would be "telling the citizens of Maryland that they are indeed entitled to a corruption-free government."
It was all part of "a scheme to keep from the citizens and government of Maryland the fact that some of these men, Marvin Mandel's condefendants, had the governor in their pocket, so that whatever good opportunity came along, whenever it came along, they could get Marvin Mandel to smile on them . . ." Liebman said.
All of this is explained "on the basis of friendship," said Liebman. "You see, Harry Rodgers, Dale Hess and Marvin Mandel tellus. 'We are friends, and friends give gifts.' Are the defendants friends? Sure, they are friends.
"You can't enter into a scheme like this with people you don't like . . . with people you can't trust," Liebman said.
You need people who you can deal with and you need people who are willing to deal so, sure, they are friends."
Thomas C. Green, attorney for Harry Rodgers, was the only attorney for the defendants to present his side of the case today. He accused the prosecutors of devising a case that was "a theory in search of facts. "Rodgers," he said, "didn't always know what Hess was doing nor did his brother Bill know what Irv was doing but that didn't stop the prosecutors . . . they relied on the must-have-known theory," about the race track.
Green said it was unfair to describe as "bribes" the benefits recevied by Mandel and that Harry Rodgers' use of nominees or front men to hide his ownership of the racetrack was in conformity with the laws of Maryland at the time it was done.
"You cannot accuse the man of being a criminal for doing what was allowed within the law."