A week before Maryland's primary elections, prosecutors in Texas are seeking to extradite a Baltimore candidate for state Senate on a felony charge of theft.
Will J. Hanna, 43, who is challenging Sen. Lisa Gladden in the Democratic primary for the 41st Senate District, is accused of stealing a car six years ago from an attorney in Guadalupe County, Texas.
Hanna is also accused of writing $19,000 in bad checks in neighboring Bexar County, prosecutors there said. Those are misdemeanor charges.
Hanna, who lives in the 3700 block of Reisterstown Road in Northwest Baltimore, denies any wrongdoing. He says he knew nothing of bad checks when he left Texas six years ago, and blames people associated with a marketing business he ran there.
He was indicted this month by a grand jury in Guadelupe County on felony charges of theft and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
Prosecutors say Hanna attempted to buy a 1994 XJ Jaguar Vanden Plas from local attorney David Willborn in 2008, wrote a $5,000 check that bounced and never returned the vehicle.
In Bexar County, Hanna is accused of writing bad checks to sporting goods companies, Wal-Mart, Pizza Hut and other businesses.
Hanna said he did not write the checks and doubted he was even in Texas when they were written. He said he moved to Baltimore from Texas in 2008.
"I had nothing to do with this," Hanna said. He called the charges "political," and said they were intended to hurt his campaign.
"They do not want me to win at City Hall," he said. "They will go to any lengths to smear me. Why is it coming up now?"
Early voting began last week for the primary elections. Election Day is June 24. Hanna, president and CEO of the New Park Heights Community Development Corp., is trying to unseat the incumbent Gladden, the vice chairwoman of the powerful Judicial Proceedings Committee and the Senate majority whip.
Willborn, who is now the Guadalupe County attorney, said he doesn't care about Maryland politics. He said he searched for Hanna for years, but located him only recently, when he found Hanna's Senate campaign on Facebook.
"It's political only in that he put himself in the political realm, so I was able to find him," Willborn said. "He absconded. He ripped me off. He's been ripping people off for years."
Hanna, an Army veteran and community activist, was indicted June 5. William G. Squires III, an assistant district attorney in Guadalupe County, said the District Court there has issued a warrant for his arrest and extradition to Texas.
Squires said prosecutors used Google Earth to search for Hanna's address and found a Jaguar parked in front. He said prosecutors sent Hanna several letters seeking payment and sought an indictment only after he didn't respond.
Hanna said the car broke down a year after he took it, and he now has a newer vehicle. He said he wants to make sure the charges are handled swiftly.
In Bexar County, First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said Hanna owes about $7,000 to a company there called Baseball Express, $3,500 to Star Shuttle bus service, $425 to Wal-Mart and $22 to Pizza Hut, among other businesses.
The checks date from around the same time as the Jaguar deal.
"He hasn't paid any of it," Herberg said.
Hanna said many of the charges related to a youth football team with which he was involved called the San Antonio Stars, but he blamed others for the checks.
"Somebody else signed those checks. It was fraud," Hanna said. "I didn't know about them until I left Texas."
Hanna has risen to a leadership position in the Park Heights neighborhood. He has run an active campaign for Senate, making an issue of persistent poverty in Northwest Baltimore despite dedicated funding streams from the Racetrack Impact Fund and slots revenues.
He's received financial support from Baltimore's police union, among other contributors.
Hanna has lent money to his campaign for the primary. At last report, he still had $43,000 on hand. Gladden was running a deficit of $39,000.
"People will do whatever they can to stop my campaign," he said. "We've been very clean. My record speaks for itself. I've served my country, and I serve people in the community honorably."
Gladden, a public defender, said she was disappointed to learn of the charges.
"I'm sorry for him, and I'm sorry for those who support him," she said. "He should have known that when he filed for office this would become public.
"If he needs a lawyer, I'm available."