A Glen Burnie woman was indicted here today on charges of attempting to buy information from a member of the 1975 grand jury investigating political corruption allegations against former Maryland governor Marvin Mandel.
Donna B. Brown, an employe of a suburban Baltimore Montgomery Ward store, was indicted for allegedly trying to persuade grand juror Diane Lawrence to provide information about the grand jury's investigations, which led to the Nov. 24, 1975, indictment of Mandel on mail fraud and racketeering charges.
Two men previously were convicted of attempting to tamper with the jury that sat at the aborted first trial of Mandel in 1976. But today's indictment is the first time there has been any charge of attempting to impede the grand jury investigation that led to Mandel's indictment.
Federal prosecutors in Baltimore have evidence that indicates that "there were several people involved in the effort to" influence grand juror Lawrence, according to today's indictment. But no other persons were named in the indictment.
U.S. Attorney Russell T. Baker Jr., however, said that "the investigation of attempts to obstruct the investigation and prosecution of the Mandel case is continuing."
Last month, Mandel's mail fraud and racketeering convictions were overturned by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the former governor returned to office for the final two days of his term.
The U.S. Justice Department is now considering asking the full 4th circuit to reinstate the conviction, which was overturned by three of the court's seven judges.
Brown was charged in the indictment with approaching Lawrence on Oct. 11, 1975, about six weeks before the grand jury returned the indictment against Mandel.
Lawrence "promptly contacted federal prosecutors after she was approached and assisted the government in its investigation of the matter," according to Baker.
After the alleged attempt to influence Lawrence, she was removed from the Mandel grand jury to assure that the investigation would not be tainted. Grand juries are assembled with 23 jurors, but only 16 are needed to make its actions valid. Lawrence did not vote on the indictment. The indictment charged that Mandel had accepted benefits in return for using his office to enrich the business interests of several friends.
Brown was called before another grand jury last October and was asked about the alleged effort to gain information three years previously from Lawrence. Today's indictment charged that she made false statements to that grand jury when she told prosecutors that she knew nothing of the alleged approach.
There was no indication in the indictment that Brown was connected in any way to Mandel or his five codefendants, and it is believed that prosecutors have thus far found no such connection.
The indictment also contained no information about how much money Lawrence was allegedly offered for information. Prosecutors refused to reveal how many times Lawrence was said to have been approached, although the indictment states that the approaches were allegedly made between Oct. 11 and the day the Mandel indictment was returned.
Prosecutors also refused to comment on how Lawrence assisted the FBI and inspectors of the U.S. Postal Service in their investigation of the matter.
Brown, who trains managers of optical departments at Wards stores all over Maryland, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Her attorney, Harold Buchman, of Baltimore, refused to comment on the indictment. Brown, according to a source, was a friend of Lawrence.
Brown has worked for Wards for about six years, according to a manager she trained about a year ago.