The same men whose lavish gifts and financial favors to Marvin Mandel led to his and their conviction on political corruption charges also paid for substantial portions of the former Maryland governor's trial defense and appeal.
"Bill and Irv and Harry and I paid for all of the appeals," W. Dale Hess said yesterday. Hess, a wealthy insurnace executive and developer, was convicted with Mandel. William Rodgers, Irvin Kovens and Harry Rodgers III. A sixth defendant, Ernest Cory, also was found guilty.
"There was no question of Marvin feeling funny [about it]," Hess said. "We didn't have any choice. The man was broke."
Besides paying for Mandel's appeal, three of the codefendants also chipped in a total of $60,000 during the 1977 trial for fees to Arnold Weiner, Mandel's attorney, according to a source close to the defense.
The four-year legal struggle of Mandel and his associates ended this week with the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to review their case. All are expected to surrender within 30 days to begin serving prison terms.
The legal battle, waged by a battery of attorneys through one mistrial, a second trial and more than two years of appeals, cost nearly $1.5 million in legal fees and expenses, according to Hess.
During the trials, each defendant was represented by his own attorney. Throughout the appeals process, Weiner and a University of North Carolina law professor acted as "lead counsel" for all of the defendants.
Asked about the fees earlier this week, Mandel replied: "None of the other defendants has contributed to paying my legal bills. That I can tell you."
He said that a "good part of the legal bills" was paid for by a legal defense fund set up by several businessmen and friends shortly after his 1975 indictment. The defense fund was held in a blind trust so that Mandel did not know who contributed to it or how it paid the bills.
"If you ask me how much, where or when [bills were paid], I couldn't tell you," he said.
To other questions about the cost of his defense and appeal and how or whether the bills have been paid, Mandel said: "It's not something to discuss or talk about. Legal bills are a matter between attorney and client.
His lawyer, Weiner, refused to discuss the question of fees, saying to do so was "unbecoming."
During Mandel's 1977 trial, much of the prosecution's case was built around testimony that Hess, Kovens and the Rodgers brothers had come to Mandel's financial rescue when the $25,000-a-year governor found himself in need. According to testimony, these men paid for jewelry for his first wife, for trips, for new clothing, and cut Mandel in on two lucrative real estate deals.
They also helped him out when he left his first wife Barbara in 1973, financing a large part of the $350,000 divorce and separation settlement according to trial testimony. One of the major parts of the settlement was $155,000 in tax-free bonds supplied by Kovens, according to testimony.
There was little dispute over Mandel's receipt of the favors only over their purpose. The defendants contended they were gestures of friendship from longtime friends. The prosecution maintained that they were intended to corrupt the governor.
In 1976, a few months after Mandel and his associates were indicted, several businessmen formed a legal defense committee to raise funds for the governor, who had acknowledged his inability to personally finance his defense. g
Though the fund was said to contain as much as $200,000 in contributions in 1977, the fund's counsel Konstantine [Gus] Prevas said yesterday "that figure is a little on the high side." He said the fund peaked at "somewhere over $100,000."
At some point during the lengthy Mandel procedings, Prevas said, the fund no longer could pay the former governor's legal expenses. Copies of bills from attorney Weiner came to the fund's trustees, but could not be paid, Prevas said.
It was at this point -- sometime arorund the 1977 trial -- that Kovens, Hess and Harry Rodgers each "kicked in $20,000" to help pay Weiner, according to a source close to the defense. The group's first trial, in 1976, had ended in a mistrial.
"There was no discussion," said the source. "A second trial was coming up. He [Weiner] had to get paid. There was an understanding that if enough money came out of the [defense] fund, they'd get paid back."
Hess said that he and his associates had "helped out" with payments for Weiner during the trial, but would not disclose how much the payments were.
Hess said that because Mandel was the governor and they key figure in the trial, his defense was crucial to the other defendants and that Weiner acted as the lead counsel for all the defendants in the case.
Weiner, however, rose at the beginning of the June, 1977 trial and told jurors, "This may look like a contest with the prosecution team here and the defense team over here -- but I represent only Marvin Mandel, and I am speaking to you only for Marvin Mandel on his behalf."
Each of the defendants was represented at the trial by one, and in some cases, two attorneys of his own. Cory was the only one represented by a public defender, whose services were paid for by the federal government.
After their August 1977 convictions, the group appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which first reversed their convictions and then in two separate rulings reinstated them. The process took more than two years as the case wound its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which last Monday declined to review it.