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Prosecutor signals intent to pursue Holton

The state prosecutor's office filed papers Wednesday signaling its intention to appeal the dismissal of bribery and misconduct charges brought against Baltimore City Councilwoman Helen L. Holton.

Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney ruled last month that prosecutors presented tainted evidence to a city grand jury and tossed out four charges that were brought against Holton. He also threw out five of the 12 charges that were brought against Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon for the same reason.

In dismissing the charges, Sweeney wrote that local lawmakers are protected by legislative immunity, and votes or bills they introduce cannot be used as evidence of wrongdoing against them in a criminal proceeding. The cases against Holton and Dixon were built at least in part on official legislative acts.

"We think it is a question that the Court of Appeals needs to answer because they never had," said Deputy State Prosecutor Thomas M. McDonough.

The prosecutors did not file any intention to appeal the dismissals in the mayor's case. McDonough would not say what the prosecutors plan to do. One option is to re-indict Dixon without using the tainted evidence. Also, they could go forward with the remaining charges against the mayor. A trial is set for September.

Federal and state lawmakers enjoy legislative immunity, but Holton's case was the first instance of a lawmaker facing a criminal bribery charge based on her legislative acts. Prosecutors alleged that she accepted a poll from developer Ronald H. Lipscomb in exchange for favorable votes on tax breaks that benefited his Inner Harbor East projects.

Holton's attorney, Joshua R. Treem called Sweeney's ruling "on the mark."
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