Mitchell cleared of wrongdoing State prosecutor ends investigation


ANNAPOLIS -- House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., his voice choked with emotion, informed his colleagues in the House of Delegates yesterday that he has been cleared of any wrongdoing after an 11-month investigation by the state's special prosecutor.

Mr. Mitchell, 54, said he received a telephone call from his attorney Thursday afternoon informing him that State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli had called to say the investigation was closed.

"You'll have to bear with me," he told the delegates as his voice cracked. "For 11 months, I have been under investigation. I was contacted by the special prosecutor's office yesterday and [told] there was nothing wrong."

"They said I did nothing wrong, there was no violation of criminal law and no basis for criminal prosecution," Mr. Mitchell told reporters following his brief statement to the House.

Mr. Mitchell has said in the past that although Mr. Montanarelli's office informed him he was under investigation, he was never told why.

Speculation has revolved around his private business dealings as a real estate broker, particularly one Eastern Shore deal involving race track owner and developer Mark R. Vogel.

Mr. Mitchell's real estate company earned a $100,000 commission in that transaction from the landowners who sold property to Mr. Vogel.

Yesterday, Mr. Mitchell asked Speaker Pro Tem Nancy K. Kopp, D-Montgomery, to preside at the rostrum so he could move to her vacated desk on the House floor and speak to his colleagues on "personal privilege."

After he announced his news, members of the House rose to give their leader a long, standing ovation.

Mr. Mitchell thanked his family -- "It's been long and hard for them," he said -- and thanked his legislative colleagues "who kept the faith."

"For that, I am grateful," he said, clearly on the verge of tears.

Mr. Montanarelli confirmed the decision in a telephone interview.

"I have made a report and I have given him a copy through his attorneys. I made it available yesterday. I can say that I found no criminal violations.

"I'd rather not go into anything else," he said.

"They told me they don't want the report made public and I shall abide by their wishes," he said.

During his ordeal, Mr. Mitchell described the investigation as "sheer hell" for himself and his family, bitterly complaining of being "tried in the press."

He said he had waited to announce his exoneration publicly until after he could inform his family.

The six-term Kent Island Democrat, who has never faced political opposition and who late last year was re-elected unanimously for his fifth year as the presiding officer in the House, said he cooperated fully with the prosecutor's office, turning over all financial or other records that were requested.

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