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.

Irvin Kovens was a political boss and a millionaire long before he was accused of corrupting Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel, and his conviction -- and its reversal Thursday -- have done little to change his position.

"What kind of help do I need?" Kovens asked scornfully Thursday. "Anybody who understands who I am would not ask me if this was going to help me."

Kovens was described by prosecutors as the major stockholder in the Marlboro Race Track, but steadfastly denied through both trials that he had ever had an interest in the property.

He said he was not surprised by the reversal of the convictions. "This is what I expected from the beginning," he said. "I expected this decision at the original trial until I saw what we had as a jury."

Mandel said that Kovens -- who bought him $2,333 worth of suits and provided $155,000 worth of tax-free bonds for Mandel's alimony settlement with his first wife -- shared "a close personal friendship" with him, and others said that Kovens looked on Mandel almost paternally.

Thursday, it was Mandel that Kovens was most pleased about. "I am very, very happy for him," Kovens said. "He's been put through a lot, very unfairly."