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In West Baltimore, sadness and questions of fairness Voters, lawmakers say it's time to let courts decide matter; THE YOUNG INDICTMENT


As news of a nine-count indictment against former state Sen. Larry Young flashed across television screens yesterday at Mondawmin Mall, several shoppers and workers shook their heads in disappointment.

"I just think its bad that we put people in office who are just as much shysters as these guys on the street," said Radio Shack employee Steven Clapp, 25, standing in front of a bank of four televisions.

"I voted for him," lamented 74-year-old James Peterkin, moments after hearing about the indictment. "We voted to put him in to do right. When he got in there, he changed."

Others voiced skepticism and maintained that Young has yet to have his day in court where prosecutors must prove him guilty of the charges -- bribery, extortion and filing a false income tax return for deals involving two health care companies.

"I really would like to know all of the facts," said Gregory Alsup, 33. "If there is anything I can do to support him, I will.

"He's a positive role model. He showed that if you go to school and get an education, you can succeed in politics."

Politicians, legislative watchdogs and Young's former constituents agreed that the news of the criminal charges was a sad turn of events for a man who had spent more than two decades in politics. Young was representing Maryland's 44th District in West Baltimore when he was expelled in January from the Senate.

Members of the General Assembly said they saw the indictment as a terrible blow to Young and the state.

"The initial reaction is one of sadness, in that Senator Young came to the legislature as a very young man and had a great deal of potential to be someone very great," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who chose Young to chair the finance subcommittee. "We now have to let the judicial processes take their course."

Sen.-elect Clarence M. Mitchell IV, who will take over Young's 44th District seat next month, said his predecessor will have an opportunity to receive due process he was not accorded in the hearings that led to his expulsion.

"Now Senator Young and his attorney have an opportunity to present their case and face the accusers and everybody who says Senator Young committed a particular wrong act," said Mitchell, an outspoken defender of Young during the expulsion proceedings.

"You can't fight newspaper stories, and you can't fight innuendo," the Baltimore Democrat said. Mitchell would not venture a prediction of the outcome, saying he did not know the details of the case.

One-time political ally, Gov. Parris N. Glendening had no public reaction to the news. "The matter is before the courts, and it would be inappropriate of the governor to make any comment whatsoever," said press secretary Ray Feldmann.

Kathleen Skullney, executive director of the nonprofit watchdog group Common Cause/Maryland, said the charges were "unfortunate," but "heartening."

"It makes it perfectly clear that there are conflict-of-interest lines that cannot be crossed -- even in Maryland," Skullney said. "It's also nice to know that when it walks, talks and smells like bribery and extortion, the grand jury agrees."

Pub Date: 12/15/98

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