A tenured professor in the University of Maryland's Afro-American Studies Program was indicted in Prince George's County yesterday on charges of receiving more than $24,000 in kickbacks since 1976 from three student assistants in exchange for giving them phony jobs or academic credit in his department.
A grand jury in Upper Marlboro returned a 10-count indictment against Al-Tony Gilmore, 36, chairman of the university's Afro-American program until this fall. He was removed from the chairmanship after police began investigating the case last summer on a tip from the university, but remains on the faculty.
University spokesmen on the College Park campus said it is the first case of alleged academic corruption to reach a criminal court here in recent memory. Gilmore could not be reached for comment yesterday. Described by college provost Murray Polakoff as an articulate man who could "charm the boots" off some members of his staff, Gilmore headed the Afro-American program beginning in 1976. The program has about 700 students, graduate and undergraduate.
Yesterday's indictment charges Gilmore with taking $6,540 in bribes between August 1979 and June 1981 from Robert Glenn Harris, described as a graduate assistant, in exchange for arranging to give Harris academic credit to which he was "not entitled." Gilmore was also charged with obstructing justice when, according to prosecutors, he instructed Harris to submit phony bibliographical material to state police investigating Gilmore last summer in an effort to satisfy police that Harris was involved in legitimate academic work.
In addition, Gilmore was charged with seven counts of theft and false pretenses under an alleged scheme in which Harris and two other student assistants kicked back thousands of dollars in work stipends to Gilmore in exchange for having their graduate fees waived while doing little or no work for Gilmore.
Neither Harris nor the other two student assistants -- identified in the indictment as Sonja E. Watson and Linda G. Holiday -- could be reached for comment. Assistant State Attorney General Joseph L. Evans and state police investigator Thomas Carr said all three students have cooperated with the investigation. None was indicted.
Gilmore's attorney, Steven Jacoby of Hyattsville, said Gilmore will turn himself in today at 2 p.m. at the state police barracks in College Park. He said Gilmore is expected to be released on his own recognizance pending an arraignment at which he will plead not guilty.
If convicted, Gilmore could receive maximum penalties of 12 years in prison and a $5,000 fine for each of the two bribery counts, 15 years and $1,000 on each of the four theft counts, 10 years and an unlimited fine on each of the three false pretense counts and three years and $10,000 on the obstructing justice charge.
Gilmore is charged with accepting $12,621 in stipend kickbacks from Harris, $9,981 from Watson and $1,630 from Holiday -- a total of $24,232.
Investigators would not discuss details of the case but said the three student assistants simply cashed their regular biweekly stipend paychecks and gave all or portions of the money to Gilmore from 1976 to this year. The stipends were paid to the students from state funds.
Gilmore is currently paid about $41,100 annually as an associate professor. He is one of four full-time and six part-time faculty members in the Afro-American Studies Program and teaches two courses, including an independent study for about 20 seniors.
His other course, "The History and Politics of the Black Athlete in America," is reportedly a popular course with about 80 students. Gilmore is the author of "Bad Nigger! The National Impact of Jack Johnson," a book about Johnson becoming the first black boxing heavyweight champion in 1910.
Gilmore's troubles began last spring after colleagues met with Polakoff, provost of the division of behavioral and social sciences, complaining that the Afro-American program was deteriorating. Polakoff said their other complaints included Gilmore coming late to school and not consulting with faculty about the program. University officials also heard rumors of a kickback arrangement.
Polakoff asked his assistant provost, Carolyn Sahni, to question Harris, and then Polakoff and Sahni went to university attorneys who brought in state investigators. Gilmore, a Kensington resident, was a history professor at Howard before coming to Maryland in 1976.