Federal prosecutors have been investigating anti-crime grants distributed by an agency overseen by Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend since at least April in a probe that has included grand jury testimony by an official of a Prince George's County nonprofit in June.
Two top officials of Safe Streets
2000 Inc., a nonprofit that received state grants for community programs in
central Prince George's, said in separate interviews yesterday that FBI agents
arrived at the group's Largo office with a subpoena for all of
the group's records in April.
Terry Lawlah, Safe Streets' paid executive
director, appeared before the grand jury and testified for "about 10 minutes,"
said Del. Joanne C. Benson, the group's co-founder and unpaid president.
"When the grand jury looked at our records, they saw every i was dotted and
every t was crossed - no foolishness," Benson said in her first public comments
since the story was reported.
Benson, a Prince George's Democrat, said Lawlah
came out of the grand jury room "scratching her head" over what federal
investigators were looking for. Lawlah said she did not get the impression that
the organization was the target of the probe.
The three-term delegate said
neither she nor her personal records were subpoenaed. Benson said she
accompanied Lawlah to Baltimore to lend moral support and was not asked to
"We have not heard a mumbling word since" from the prosecutors,
Prosecutors also have subpoenaed records of the Governor's
Office of Crime Control and Prevention, which
Although Townsend said she learned of the federal
investigation "about a month ago" from the crime-control
office, a spokesman for that office could not
say last night when the agency received its subpoena. Nor will the agency detail
which records were requested by the federal authorities. It is also unclear when
the agency learned of the subpoena served in April to the Prince George's
Initial news reports about the investigation this week set off a
round of political recriminations between Townsend and Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich
Jr., her leading Republican rival in the governor's race.
For the second
straight day, Townsend questioned the motivations of U.S. Attorney Thomas M.
DiBiagio - who was backed for the job by Ehrlich - in conducting the
"It's an amazing coincidence that the U.S. attorney would take
on a tiny little office and a $40,000 grant when there are so
many other challenges to be involved in," Townsend said.
She also questioned
Ehrlich's statement that he has not had any contact about the investigation with
"I've seen him not tell the truth once," Townsend said, referring
to allegations Ehrlich made regarding juvenile crime statistics.
"I'll see what he's doing in this case as well."
Ehrlich said last night that
he stands by his statement that he has not spoken to DiBiagio. "Does she really
think the U.S. attorney and the FBI are working together to hurt her campaign?
It's incredible," Ehrlich said. DiBiagio has declined to comment.
the $40,000 figure, Townsend was apparently referring to the approximate amount
of payments to subcontractors out of a 2001 state grant of $503,000 to a
partnership of Safe Streets 2000 and Los Angeles-based National Homes Trust.
The governor's crime office routed $41,950
through an unrelated nonprofit, Quiet Fire Repertory Co., to former journalist
Bruce W. Branch and two other subcontractors after National Homes Trust refused
to pay for work Branch and the subcontractors had done.
the transaction as a legal "pass-through" designed to comply with federal law.
Lawlah said Safe Streets officials had no knowledge of the payments and owed no
money to the recipients because they were not her group's subcontractors.
Chuck Porcari, press secretary for Gov. Parris N. Glendening, said the governor
would not comment on the investigation and the operations of the
crime-control office. Porcari referred calls to
Townsend, noting that she has been delegated authority over the
Nonprofit testified in Md. agency probe
Group that received anti-crime grants subpoenaed in April
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