Defense attorneys for Baltimore City Councilwoman Helen L. Holton and developer Ronald H. Lipscomb have filed requests for the state prosecutor to disclose details about the evidence that led to last month's grand jury indictment against them on bribery charges, including information about conversations between them and her role in helping to secure tax breaks for his company.
The requests, called a "bill of particulars," are the first substantive legal documents filed by defense attorneys in the case, revealing some clues as to how they intend to fight charges stemming from a years-long investigation that also yielded an indictment against Mayor Sheila Dixon.
The attorneys' questions suggest that, at least in part, they hope to employ a strategy similar to the one Dixon's attorney Arnold Wiener outlined in a high-profile news conference last month, in which he attacked what he called loopholes in the city's ethics code.
Holton was indicted in early January on charges of bribery, perjury and misuse of office; prosecutors say she sent the $12,500 bill for a political poll to Lipscomb.
The developer is accused of paying for the poll in exchange for Holton's help securing tax breaks. Holton and Lipscomb both say there was no bribe.
Dixon was also ensnared in that probe and faces a 12-count indictment for allegedly accepting gifts from Lipscomb without reporting them, stealing gift cards meant for the poor and misusing her office. Dixon says she is innocent.
In documents filed last week, Holton's defense team, headed by Joshua Treem, asked State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh whether any of Lipscomb's companies are named on a list of companies doing business with the city in 2007, the year when the bribe is alleged to have been made.
City law requires council members to report any gifts from entities doing business with the city.
The ethics department keeps an searchable database of all companies that receive checks from the city to help officials file their annual ethics forms. There are multiple entries for Lipscomb's firm, Doracon, in that database, but it is unclear whether the city has any way of showing what that database contained in 2007.
Weiner has said the list doesn't meet legal muster because it was not certified by the city finance director and isn't designed to specifically reflect the definition of an entity doing business with the city set out in Baltimore's ethics law.
The available database is broader than the ethics rules require.
In a letter to Weiner, the city's law department agreed the list is not proper. The city's ethics board is now scrambling to come up with another list for officials to use when they have to file their ethics forms in April.
Holton's attorneys also asked the prosecutors to spell out whether the councilwoman directed any changes to be made to the tax legislation for Lipscomb's projects that moved through a finance committee she chaired.
The lawyers noted that the tax breaks in question also passed through the city's Board of Estimates, a powerful spending panel controlled by the mayor. Holton does not sit on that panel.
Lipscomb's head lawyer, Gerard P. Martin, filed a document with 26 areas of inquiry focused on learning what prosecutors believe was said during a series of phone calls between the developer and the councilwoman.
Martin also asked for all information about why prosecutors think the $12,500 payment constituted a bribe.
In a pair of catch-all questions at the end of the filing, Martin asked the prosecutors to describe "all statements" made by either Lipscomb or Holton about the alleged bribe.
Dixon's attorneys have not yet filed similar requests for information from the state prosecutor, but they have said they intend to.