Maybe we guessed wrong about Dixon

No surprise that the prosecutor who's been dogging Sheila Dixon for years thinks she's corrupt. The real shocker, if her indictment is to be believed, is that Sheila Dixon thinks Sheila Dixon is corrupt.

Dixon might have looked dirty to most of us for allegedly taking lavish gifts from a developer and giving him big city tax breaks, but I'd always imagined that her conscience was clear.

Blind to conflicts of interest? You bet.

Conscious of them? Self-conscious about them? No way.

Yet the indictment describes someone who knows she's got something to hide, the sort who ought to be indicted on Richard Nixon's birthday, as she was Friday. It has Dixon passing 40 $100 bills to a city employee inside a car and asking him to launder the cash so it could be used to pay her credit card bill. If the prosecutor's got that right, then I must admit I had Dixon wrong.

She'd acknowledged that she'd had a relationship with developer Ron Lipscomb and that they'd "exchanged" gifts. The City Charter forbids public servants from taking gifts from people doing business with the city, but Dixon claimed they were tokens of affection, not bribes.

Common Cause might not have bought it. But I always figured that Dixon had convinced herself that all's fair in love and city contracting.

Even some of the most sensational details that trickled out last summer, in a search warrant affidavit filed by prosecutors, seemed to bolster Dixon's dating defense.

The affidavit claimed that in March 2004, Dixon and Lipscomb flew out to Chicago, where in a single day, they managed to drop more than $7,000 at Armani, Saks Fifth Avenue, Coach and Niketown. Overshadowed by all the titillating designer details was this: Lipscomb didn't foot the whole bill. At least that's how it looked in the affidavit.

He bought the plane tickets, at $1,518 apiece, the affidavit said. But she picked up the $1,695 hotel bill. Lipscomb whipped out his credit card at some stores. But the $570 Jimmy Choo sandals from Saks, the $600 spent at Coach, the $4,410 dropped at Giorgio Armani - all that went on Dixon's own American Express.

So they were going dutch, right? A boyfriend and girlfriend shopping together, but separately. They were in another state, and in another state of mind, one completely divorced from their roles back in Baltimore as granter and recipient of municipal largess.

Anyway, that's how I figured Dixon saw it. How that churchgoing woman who wears her faith on her mink sleeve could hold her head so high.

And then Friday's indictment lands. And in it, the prosecutor's account of what happens when Dixon's AmEx bill lands.

About three weeks after that Chicago weekend getaway, Dixon receives her credit card statement, the indictment states.

Outstanding balance: $16,207.57.

Minimum payment due: $7,514.

Value of being friendly with a wealthy developer: Priceless, if the prosecutor is right.

Right around that time, one of Lipscomb's employees cashed a $15,000 corporate check and gave the cash to Lipscomb, the indictment states.

Days later, someone - the indictment doesn't say who - made a $6,000 cash deposit at an ATM into Dixon's checking account.

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