Marvin Mandel was sentenced to four years in prison today for his crimes of corruption and immediately forfeited his office as governor of Maryland.
Describing the sentencing as the "saddest decision I have ever made." U.S. District Judge Robert L. Taylor chose not to impose a fine on the penniless governor, as he did on the wealthier codefendants in the case and made Mandel eligible for parole anytime after imprisonment.
Clealy moved by the pleadings of the six defendants in teh Mandel case. Taylor nonetheless gave prison sentences to them all and the maximum fine of $40,000 to those who could afford to pay. He did acquit the men on one major and two minor counts of their 18 and 19-count convictions.
Mandel rose to face his sentencing without emotion although his wife, Jeanne, who had remained stoic during the trial wept quietly as the governor said "I'm ready for your judgment, your honor."
"I have great sympathy for you . . . ." Judge Taylor said. "Yoy have many many good qualities. But I think you made some severe mistakes."
Those mistakes became crimes on Aug. 23 when Mandel and his codefendants were found guilty by a jury of engineering a scheme whereby Mandel received hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts so that he, in turn would manipulate his governorship to enrich his friends' businesses.
Mandel's conviction was one in a series of corruption convictions obtained by federal prosecutors in Maryland over the last decade; a record that has made the state, in Mandel's own words a few years ago, "a post-mark for agreed and corruptions.
Former Maryland Gov. Spiro T. Agnew, who pleaded no contest to a tax evasion charge and resigned the vice presidency in connection with kickbacks he accepted, was Mandel's predecessor.
Two country executive, Dale Anderson of Baltimore Country, and Joseph W. Alton, of Anne Arundel Country, have recently served prison terms after being prosecuted by the federal government on corruption charges.
Codefedants W. Dale Hess, Harry W. Rodgers III and Irvin Kovens all received sentences of four years in jail and fines of $40,000. William A. Rodgers was told to pay $40,000 in fines as well abut since his role in the scheme was minor.Taylor said, he was sentenced to only 20 months imprisonment.
The one defendant to apologize received the lightest sentence. Witha broken voice. Laurel lawyer Ernest N. Cory Jr. told Taylor it was "diffcult to speak with a heart full of remorse and contrition" and then he apologize to his family, friends, and the government for his "complicity." He was sentenced to 18 months in jail and was not fined. He and Mandel face disbarment.
No one will be imprisoned until the appeal process has been exhausted, an exercise that could take more 3 year. Once imprisoned, the men will technically be eligible for parole immediately - under a first offender rule - but in practice they must serve at least 120 days before receiving a parole hearing.
As defendant after defendant rose to hear his fate, wives and children broke theur reserve and sobbed openly, most fot the first time in public.
Once the other men received their sentences Jeanne Mandel regained her composure and comforted the other families faced with the loss of an imprisoned husband and father.
Mandel appeared relaxed as he stood before the judge. One hand was in his trouser pocket, one was used to gesture, as he made a short statement.
"I am insolvent from the point of view of fiancial assets, but I'm not insolvent becasue I have my family. There are more important things i life than property . . . My whole life is in disarray, I've got to start a new one."
The chief prosecutor, Barnet D. Skolnik, urged a tough sentence for Mandel, who, he said, has shown "no remorse, no regret, offered no apology."
And none was to come today, either. Outside the courthouse, before a battery of microphones and a largely friendly crowd of 200. Mandel repeated his protestations of innocence.
"I have a strong feeling of satisfaction" resulting from "a quarter century of public service," Mandel said. "I never did anything to hurt the people of Maryland . . . No one can say I hurt the people of this state, no one testified that I did."
"How do you show remorse? Do you go around crying? I've never been a crybaby."
He acknowledged that "no one could enjoy ending a public career in this fashion." but he expressed optimism that his conviction will be overturned on appeal.
Under a Maryland law signed by Mandel himself the governor lost his office, his salary, his right to live in the handsome governor's mansion and all of his authority upon sentencing. It could be restored if the conviction is reversed on appeal.
Acting Gov. Blair Lee III automatically steps into Mandel's position but today he stayed away from the state capitol and issued only a terse two-sentence statement: "I feel no small measure of sympathy for Judge Taylor who is compelled to perform his duty as he saw it. The centre trial is an extremely painful chapter in our history."
The two minor counts dropped by Judge Taylor were convictions against the men for mailing transcripts of two of the governor's 1975 press conferences to the University of Maryland.
The indictment used these mailings and others to convict the men under mail fraud statutes of the six-year scheme to bring about million dollar profits for Marlboro Race Track, which Mandel's friends owned secretly, at the expense of the citizens of Maryland.
The voters were named as the victims of the crime; as people "cheated" of the honest, unbiased and fair services of their governor since he was elected in 1969 and the indictment issued in 1975.
The success of this scheme depended on one man - Marvin Mandel - who manipulated the laws and lawmakers of Maryland to give extra racing days to the Marlboro Race Track, secretly owned by Hess, the Rodgers brothers and Kovens.
For his work, Mandel received from the others $150,000 for his divorce settlement, a $40,000 share in an Eastern Shore farm, a share in a real estate company worth some $140,000 as well as jewelry, vacations and a new wardrobe.
Three of the jurors who found the governor and his friends guilty returned to the courthouse today to witness the sentencing. The man and two women who along with the other jurors spent a summer sequestered in a Baltimore motel and deliberated 13 days on the verdict sat together at the hearing with two of the alternate jurors.
"I think the judge said it all," said juror Sonia H. Giehner. "He agonized over his job the way we did."
The sentences handed to Mandel and his co-defendants were roughly comparable to some of the stiffer sentences given to major Watergate defendants.
The three top figures convicted in the Watergate scandal - former Attorney General John N. Mithcell, and former top White House aides H. R. Haldeman and John D. Erlichman, originally were sentenced to 30 months to eight years in prison after their convictions on Watergate coverup charges.
Earlier this week, however, U. S. District Court judge John J. Sirica cut in half those original sentences. All three principals in the Nixon era scandal were still in prison.
The sentence Taylor gave Mandel was a little longer than the judge ordered on April 17, 1973, for former Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner. After listening to a 12-minute plea for leniency from Kerner, who was a federal appeals court judge when he was indicted. Taylor sentenced Kerner to three years in prison and fined him $20,000.
Lawyer Taylor rejected suggestions that both men be placed on probation to protect their health, the judge said that he wants to make sure that when necessary during their imprisonment, Cary and Kovens "are sent to the doctor of their choice if it is possible to do so." And if prison officials decide that continued imprisonment would hurt them, "I want them out."
Taylor reportedly was shaken upon learning about a series of heart attacks that Kerner suffered during his incarceration. The discovery that Kerner had cancer led to his early parole, in 1975, Kerner died May 9, 1976.
Mandel's health, which delayed the start of the retrial from April to June, was not stressed by Weiner as a factor at the sentencing.
Hess' lawyer, William G. Hundley, told the court that his client had "shown real class" throughout the proceedings, noting that after the verdict was announced Aug. 23. Hess "went on television and said he thought the decision was fair and admitted his mistakes."
Outside, the normally happy-go-lucky Hess maintained his good humor, saying the prosecutors "had a job to do and did it." He harbors "no hard feelings," Hess said.
William A. Rodgers and Kovens weren't so agreeable. While William Rodgers thought "the judge was fair," he repeated his contention that "I don't feel that I'm guilty." Kovens thought the four year sentence is "very long, longer than I should have gotten."
The only defendants who spoke during, the five-hour court session were Mandel, Cory and Kovens.
Kovens said he had intended to remain silent, but was irked by Skolnik's characterization of him today as the "mastermind" of the corruption scheme and "the single most powerful and influential power behind the scenes" in Maryland politics.
Shaking his finger in Skolnik's direction, Kovens said "I haven't done that in politics."