It's been more than two years since David Scott Corrigan was caught by a police officer slicing a campaign sign from its frame outside the headquarters of a pro-slots campaign committee in Severna Park.

Corrigan's criminal case involving the theft of 70 signs is long over and the Maryland Live casino at Arundel Mills opened last June. But the legal dispute is very much alive.

Corrigan is in an Anne Arundel County courtroom this week fending off a lawsuit from Jobs & Revenue for Anne Arundel County, a campaign committee supported by the Cordish Cos., Arundel Mills and others. The committee is seeking more than $120,000 from Corrigan to compensate for the loss of 3,000 signs. The complaint also seeks $1 million in punitive damages, although an exact figure was not given to the jury.

In a trial that opened Tuesday in county Circuit Court, Charles M. Kerr, attorney for Jobs & Revenue, told six jurors and two alternates that Corrigan stole the signs to suppress a message he didn't like from reaching voters.

"He did it for the purpose of trying to diminish Jobs & Revenue's ability to get its message out," Kerr said in his opening statement.

Corrigan, a Northrop Grumman engineer from Glen Burnie, was arrested in October 2010 amid the multimillion-dollar fight over whether to allow slots near Arundel Mills. Anne Arundel voters approved the ballot question that opened the door for the Cordish Cos. to build a slots parlor there.

Corrigan's attorney framed the case as a little guy with a heartfelt belief that gambling preyed on poor people, and who thought that plucking signs from median strips and other public property wouldn't be a problem.

"This is a case about civil protest. This is a case about someone having strong beliefs and acting on them," Ronald H. Jarashow told jurors.

He said Corrigan, active with Habitat for Humanity, believed gambling harmed disadvantaged people he worked to help. Jarashow said Corrigan thought the sign was on public property.

He said Corrigan admits he took or destroyed "100 or so" signs.

The lawsuit, however, claims THAT Corrigan's arrest was the "culmination" of a campaign to remove and destroy the signs. Kerr said signs were disappearing as fast as workers could put them up, with crews hired at a cost of $15,000 to $20,000 to replace them.

When Corrigan was arrested, his white pickup truck had 70 pro-slots sign in its bed, according to police. Corrigan cut a check for $8,740 in restitution to Jobs & Revenue in January 2011 — which his lawyer said was not cashed.

In September, he entered an Alford plea to theft, not admitting guilt but acknowledging that prosecutors had evidence to convict him, and was fined $5,000. He was placed on probation for a year and ordered to perform 64 hours of community service.

The civil trial is scheduled to continue into next week.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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