An engineer suspected of removing more than 70 pro-slots signs before last year's slots referendum in Anne Arundel County was fined $5,000 Thursday by a judge and granted probation before judgment on a single conviction of theft.
David Scott Corrigan, 50, of Glen Burnie, entered an Alford plea to a charge of theft under $10,000, not admitting guilt but acknowledging that prosecutors had the evidence to convict him.
Although Corrigan made no statement in court and declined to comment afterward, he considered slots immoral, a defense lawyer said.
"He believed that the slots, slot machines and casinos, prey on the poor, and the state should not be subsidized by the poor," said Peter S. O'Neill, one of Corrigan's lawyers. O'Neill told Annapolis District Court Judge Megan B. Johnson that Corrigan is a "very deeply religious man" who volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and other organizations.
O'Neill said Corrigan's actions cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars and may create security clearance problems; they also cost him a chance for a vice presidency at Northrop Grumman Corp., where he has worked for 29 years. Instead, O'Neill said, Corrigan has been demoted and it is unclear whether he will keep his job.
When arrested in predawn darkness Oct. 23 by a county police officer who saw him slicing a sign from its frame in front of the pro-slots campaign headquarters in Severna Park, Corrigan was dressed like a highway worker and had dozens of signs in his pickup truck, Assistant State's Attorney Michelle Smith said. Questioned by the officer, Corrigan said he didn't realize that what he was doing was illegal.
Corrigan's actions and arrest were captured on a security camera that was installed less than 24 hours earlier at the headquarters of the pro-slots campaign, which was funded in part by the Cordish Cos. Campaign officials were trying to find out why their signs were vanishing by the dozen.
The video was posted online.
"It was very popular on YouTube," Gary Shpritz, the Cordish official who had been in charge of putting up pro-slots signs throughout the county, told the judge as he asked for a penalty for Corrigan.
Outside the courtroom, Shpritz said the sign thefts costs ran "way more" than the approximately $8,700 that Corrigan had paid in restitution.
Voters approved the county slots parlor about two weeks after Corrigan's arrest.
Cordish, a Baltimore-based company, is developing a $1 billion slots parlor and entertainment complex in a section of the Arundel Mills mall parking lot.
Corrigan "maliciously interfered with fundamental free speech rights of the citizens of Anne Arundel County as well as our free speech rights, and destroyed many thousands of dollars worth of property in doing so," Bob Fowler, an attorney for Cordish, wrote in an email. He said the company was also pursuing civil remedies.
Johnson placed Corrigan on probation for a year, but gave him until Dec. 1 to complete 64 hours of community service.
Under Maryland law, a sentence of probation before judgment erases a conviction upon the successful completion of the terms of probation.