Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has told legislative leaders that had he known the unsealing of a federal indictment detailing widespread corruption in a Baltimore jail would happen while he was out of the country, he may have delayed the long-planned trip.
But e-mails released Thursday show that his top corrections official had been told the day before the governor took off for Israel. And at a legislative hearing Thursday, that official, Corrections Secretary Gary D. Maynard, acknowledged that he had been aware for some time that the conclusion of the investigation would bring a “strong risk of embarrassment” to the administration.
The federal indictment faulted a broken state disciplinary system at the Baltimore City Detention Center. It said 13 Maryland correctional officers had gone to work for a violent prison gang there, smuggling drugs, cellphones and money with little fear of getting caught. In jailhouse liaisons, according to the indictment, four female guards were even impregnated by a single incarcerated gang member.
In the six weeks since the indictment was released, O’Malley and Maynard have blamed much of the bad publicity on how the announcement was made.
O’Malley’s (D) administration was a willing, even aggressive, partner in the investigation, the two have told fellow lawmakers in private conversations trying to assuage the concerns of members of the General Assembly.
The two have lamented that the state’s cooperation was a minor point when the FBI and U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein announced the charges against Maryland correctional officers and gang members at an April 23 news conference.
Maynard indicated to lawmakers days after news conference – at which he spoke last, following Rosenstein and federal agents — that he had been somewhat blindsided. According to lawmakers and aides present for the conversation, Maynard said he was given a draft of a news release only shortly before the news conference. They said Maynard told lawmakers he unsuccessfully sought revisions to it before the news conference was held.
O’Malley was only briefed then, hours before the news conference, in a phone call from Israel, according to senior aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity to freely discuss the timeline.
But the e-mails released in response to public records requests by The Washington Post and others confirm that Maynard was first briefed four days earlier, on Friday, April 19.
O’Malley left for Israel on Saturday, April 20.
The governor’s aides said Maynard did not relay any knowledge of the looming indictments to anyone in the governor’s office before O’Malley left the country.
A spokesman for Maynard confirmed that account, but did not provide any response when asked to explain why not.
Upon his return, O’Malley indicated that he may have delayed his trip had he known of the pending indictments, said lawmakers and aides who spoke on condition of anonymity to recount private conversations with the governor.
In another e-mail exchange released Thursday, O’Malley expressed a similar sentiment to Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake. O’Malley said he was “really pissed I was out of town when these indictments were finally announced.”
In that exchange, the governor characterized the press-roll out of the case as “half-hammed.”
The existence of the first briefing for Maynard came to light in e-mail exchange between O’Malley deputy chief of staff Catherine Motz and Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney.
Motz appeared to be seeking information about the timing of the original briefing for Maynard.
Confirming,” Rosenstein wrote in the subject line of an e-mail to Motz on April 26: “The briefing was on Friday.”
“Thanks,” Motz replied.
Several officials with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Post that the exchange referred to an April 19 briefing for Maynard.
One official said the whole point of the meeting was to make sure Maynard and the state were ready to deal with the aftermath.
“We wanted to make sure he was ready. We said, ‘Are you ready for this?’ ” one officials said.
The e-mails released Thursday by the governor's office were also notable for what they omitted: O’Malley’s office withheld an undisclosed number of e-mails citing executive privilege, the right for the governor and his staff to communicate privately with attorneys as well as to shield the governor’s “deliberative process.”
The governor’s office did not disclose a single e-mail to or from O’Malley from the day Maynard was briefed to until after the governor returned from Israel. No e-mails were disclosed from any aides traveling with O’Malley when news of the indictments broke.