Dixon lawyers ask dismissal of new charges

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon's lawyers say that the new criminal charges brought against her by the state prosecutors rely on faulty evidence and a vaguely worded city ethics statute and should be dismissed, according to court papers filed Tuesday.

Arnold M. Weiner, Dixon's lead attorney, wrote that state Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh is trying "to twist alleged violations of the Baltimore City Ethics Code into criminal violations."

Dixon faces perjury charges for failing to report lavish gifts from her then-boyfriend, city developer Ronald H. Lipscomb, on her ethics forms, and theft charges for using gift cards intended for needy families.

The charges are similar to offenses she faced in January, but her lawyers persuaded a judge to drop the perjury part of that indictment by arguing that the prosecutors improperly used Dixon's votes as evidence against her.

Shortly after those charges were dismissed, Lipscomb pleaded guilty to an unrelated political corruption case and offered new testimony that Dixon attended meetings and events related to his development projects, and therefore should have known to report the furs, clothing and trips he paid for on her disclosure forms. Prosecutors used that evidence to re-indict the mayor, this time not using her votes to prove she was aware of Lipscomb's work.

But Weiner said the new evidence is just as tainted as the old.

"The prosecution failed again to comprehend the scope of the legislative privilege that protects Ms. Dixon," Weiner wrote, arguing that in addition to her votes, prosecutors also cannot use evidence of meetings or any events Dixon attended in her official capacity to prosecute her.

Weiner also argued that language in the city's ethics code requiring elected officials to disclose gifts from anyone "regulated" by the city is "so vague that it cannot ... be a basis for a criminal indictment."

The code also requires anyone "doing business" with the city to disclose gifts, and Weiner in the past has argued that Lipscomb's development work on publicly funded projects did not meet that specific standard.

Weiner resurrected a previously made argument that the city's failure to maintain a proper list of companies doing business with the city excuses Dixon from noting Lipscomb's gifts on her ethics forms. Judge Dennis M. Sweeney was not convinced by that argument in the previous case.

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