Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel was convicted of political corruption on Aug. 23, 1977, with five men, four of his closest friends and a lawyer who worked for the group. These five -- Irvin Kovens, Harry Rodgers, William A. Rodgers, W. Dale Hess and Ernest N. Cory -- were charged with corrupting Mandel by giving him thousands of dollars of gifts and business interests in exchange for his support for legislation that benefitted the owners of the Marlboro race track in Prince George's County. Federal prosecutors charged that Kovens, Harry Rodgers, William Rodgers and Hess secretly bought and owned the Marlboro track, and made millions of dollars as a result of legislation that determined the number of racing days held there and regulated the track. According to court testimony, Mandel received about $350,000 in clothes, vacations, help with his alimony payments, and interests in business ventures from the group. Cory, prosecutors charged, helped to conceal the ownership of the track .

Several of his codefendants were cool or openly bitter Thursday night, but for William A. Rodgers, the reversal of his conviction on charges of political corruption brought only joy.

"Justice for all!" was the answer at Rodgers' house, where one case of champagne was finished and another opened. "This," said Rodgers amidst the laughter and cheers of family and old friends, "is the happiest day of my life."

The reversal, Rodgers said, "lifted a ton of weights off my shoulders," but in other ways was almost unnecessary. Since his second trial ended 15 months ago, Rodgers has had little trouble continuing the work he has always known best: selling insurance and making money.

Described allegorically by federal prosecutors as the "wheelman" who "drove the getaway car" but didn't rob the bank in the alleged corruption scheme of Gov. Marvin Mandel and his business associates, William Rodgers has continued to work as vice president of Tidewater Insurance Associates, and says "last year was our best ever."

Consequently, Rodgers said, he was "happier for (Mandel) than for myself" when the court's reversal was announced.