A former high ranking official for the Maryland Governor has pleaded not-guilty to four federal charges of wire fraud and two charges of misappropriation. The 52-year-old former chief of staff to the Governor is accused of various missteps including using funds belonging to the State of Maryland to make a charitable contribution to a museum where he was a member of the board of directors. The funds came from the Maryland Environmental Service corporation, where the defendant served as executive director prior to taking a position with the governor’s office in Annapolis. Perhaps the most egregious allegation was that the defendant caused the board at his former employer to approve paying him a full year’s salary, over $200k, upon leaving to take the job with the governor. The defendant apparently told the board that the governor himself approved to so called severance package, though the governor has vigorously denied any such approval. In total, the former chief of staff is facing up to 100 years in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines. He will obviously not serve anywhere close to the maximum amount of jail if convicted, but the charges are certainly severe. The government informed the Federal Judge in the Baltimore courthouse that trial would take two weeks to complete, though there is no indication on whether advanced plea negotiations are taking place. Discovery is apparently voluminous, and the defense needs time to assess the case before advising the client.
The same defendant is also facing a 27-count criminal information in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County for various other state offense including misconduct in office and violations of Maryland’s wiretapping laws. There are allegations that the defendant secretly recorded conversations with the Governor and other high ranking state officials. The state case has not been set for trial yet, and has a status conference scheduled in the middle of December. There will likely be a ton of evidence for the defense to sift through in order to properly evaluate the case, so we do not expect a swift resolution. Both cases may end up in trial or the defense may be able to work out some sort of global plea agreement. Right now it is simply too early to tell which direction these cases are headed, but the Blog will post a follow-up article as news becomes available.
Maryland has strict laws regarding the recording or intercepting of private conversations and telephone calls, and each violation is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Even if another person uses or publishes a recording that has been intercepted unlawfully it could be a crime as long the publisher should have known a the recording was illegal. Maryland is considered a two-party state when it comes to recording or intercepting conversations, which means both parties must be aware of the recording. There are exceptions including when the police are conducting active investigations for a host of different crimes including murder, kidnapping, sex offenses, robbery, bribery, fraud, felony theft, firearms crimes and drug distribution. In these cases the police may intercept wire, oral or electronic evidence in order to provide evidence of the crime. The Maryland wiretapping law is codified under Title 10 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings section of the state laws, and not the criminal law section. Subtitle 4 of the evidence part of this section covers wiretapping and electronic surveillance, and section 10-402 is the actual wiretapping law.