A criminal past sinks hotel deal

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Baltimore officials broke off negotiations yesterday with a Fells Point merchant they had picked to manage a debt-ridden Inner Harbor hotel after learning that the man spent five years in prison for being the hit man in a 1982 attempted murder.

Terry T. Brown, the majority partner in a group that had tentatively won a two-year contract to manage Harrison's Pier 5, said hedidn't tell development officials or Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke that he had a criminal record because he didn't consider it germane to the business deal.

City officials learned of his conviction from The Sun, which uncovered the details while examining Mr. Brown's background.

"I'm not hiding anything, but it didn't seem relevant," said Mr. Brown, 40, a shopkeeper, real estate agent and recent president ofthe Fells Point Business Association. "I can't change the past. I feel I was wrongly convicted, and I maintain my innocence to this very day. If anything, a debt is owed to me."

Mr. Schmoke said the city was misled because Mr. Brown failed to disclose his conviction in a murder-for-hire plot in Prince George's County.

"This was a wonderful opportunity for him, and the plan that he presented was clearly an outstanding one," Mr. Schmoke said through his spokesman. "It is clear to me, however, that we cannot move forward in working with him in this matter."

Mr. Brown was convicted in May 1983 of shooting the husband of a Greenbelt woman who hired him for $2,000. He served five years of a 32-year prison term.

The Baltimore Development Corp., the quasi-public arm of the city that promotes economic development, suspended negotiations with Mr. Brown's partnership hours after being informed by The Sun of his criminal history. City officials will discuss their options, including reopening the bidding, this morning, said Michael Seipp, BDC vice president.

"His not disclosing it is what we find troubling," Mr. Seipp said. He defended the decision to narrow the negotiations to the Brown partnership, saying he had never considered the need for a criminal background check in a development project.

Mr. Brown's proposed management team, Pegasus I Inc., was selected over five other bidders. City officials have not disclosed details of the management contract.

Mr. Brown promised to recruit minorities and to run hotel management training programs in conjunction with Morgan State University.

His partner, Ken Callahan, manages Henderson's Wharf Inn and has extensive hotel experience.

The selection of Mr. Brown drew immediate protest Monday from leaders of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, which supported a rival bid to manage Harrison's.

Some Fells Point merchants, upset about Mr. Brown's leadership of the business association, questioned whether he had the experience torun the waterfront hotel.

In December, the city took over Harrison's after paying off $5.25 million in loans it had guaranteed. For the past six months, the city has leased the hotel to Pier 5 Inc., led by Richard and Sondra Harrison McGee. They were among the bidders for the continuing management contract.

Mr. Brown said yesterday that he thought he was the right choice to manage Harrison's because "I feel I have expertise in management, as well as in the restaurant industry. If anyone would work harder on the property, I would like to see who that person would be."

If the disclosure of his criminal record costs him the Harrison's contract, he said, it will be a "travesty" that will send a discouraging message to young blacks who feel they have too many strikes against them.

Mr. Brown was convicted by a Prince George's County Circuit Courtjury of conspiracy to murder, attempted murder and two handgun charges.

Leslie Boyd Andrews hired him to kill her husband, Philip G. Andrews, in January 1982, according to evidence presented at his trial. She later was given a life sentence, with all but eight years suspended.

Mr. Brown had met Mrs. Andrews, who had renewed a $25,000 life insurance policy on her husband with herself as beneficiary, at a Washington nightclub he was managing, according to court records. She paid Mr. Brown $1,000 in cash and was to pay another $1,000 after the killing, the records say.

Prosecutors maintained that Mr. Brown shot Mr. Andrews in the right shoulder on Jan. 20, 1982, in Washington but failed to kill him.

Eight days later, according to trial testimony, Mr. Brown fired at Mr. Andrews and missed outside the Andrews' Greenbelt apartment.

The main evidence against him was Mrs. Andrews' confession and a taped phone conversation she had with Mr. Brown while cooperating with investigators.

When police arrested Mr. Brown at Landover Mall, he was carrying a .357 Magnum pistol. A search of his car produced a photo of Mr. Andrews, ammunition and a piece of paper with the victim's name and the figure "$1,000," according to court records.

At the time he was charged with conspiracy to murder, Mr. Brown had no previous criminal record. He was a forensic psychiatric counselor at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington and was part owner and manager of two nightclubs.

Though he denies being the hit man, Mr. Brown does admit illegally carrying the handgun, which he said he did because he carried large sums of money when he managed the clubs.

He was released from prison and placed on probation in May 1988. His probationary period ended in February 1992.

By all accounts, Mr. Brown was a model prisoner. He made the dean's list at Coppin State College, through which he took courses while in prison. Many people, including his mother, college professors and an Annapolis alderman, wrote letters on his behalf.

A native of Annapolis who started delivering newspapers as an enterprising 9-year-old, Mr. Brown went on from prison to receive a master's in business administration from Morgan State and become a licensed real estate agent.

About 2 1/2 years ago, he opened an antiques shop in Fells Point. A breezy talker who favors polo shirts, he keeps a 30-foot sailboat on the Fells Point waterfront and drives a car with a license plate holder that says "I'd Rather Be Sailing."

Mr. Brown impressed many of his fellow merchants with his charm, his ready banter and his rapid business expansion on Thames Street.

"He had the appearance of an up-and-coming executive," said Howard Gerber, an attorney who owns the Horse You Came In On saloon. "He's very articulate and obviously a doer."

Mr. Brown's year and a half as president of the Fells Point Business Association ended in unpleasantness when he resigned this month.

Some shopkeepers were upset when two popular street festivals the association sponsors every summer -- the Preakness Festival and the Maritime Festival -- drew smaller-than-usual crowds.

The association ended up $16,424 in the red.

Mr. Brown said the association's losses were caused by unfavorable weather and increased costs, not by mismanagement.

As association president, "I'm not in a position to really handle money except on days of events or festivals," he said. "Everything was always aboveboard."

Mr. Seipp, who knew Mr. Brown from his work on a committee trying to obtain a federal grant for Baltimore, said BDC officials were aware of the Fells Point controversy but discounted it as stemming from personal disputes.

Mr. Brown said he has overcome the stigma of imprisonment. "I could have blamed the system, said another black man was being crucified by the system, found a lot of crutches," he said. "But I went on with my life. I still believe the American dream is possible."

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