A Prince George's County senator disputed yesterday lobbyist Gerard E. Evans' assertions to clients that the legislator planned to introduce a bill the companies were paying Evans to fight.
Sen. Paul G. Pinsky testified in U.S. District Court in Baltimore that letters Evans wrote to his clients in 1997 and 1998 warning them of Pinsky's plans to introduce lead paint legislation were not true.
"I guess I make for a good straw man to create a case of fraud," said Pinsky, a Democrat.
The prosecutor in the federal mail-fraud trial of Evans and Del. Tony E. Fulton used Pinsky's testimony to try to show that the lobbyist misled his clients in order to generate lobbying fees.
The bill Pinsky supposedly was considering, called "market share" legislation, would have made it easier for victims of lead poisoning to sue paint manufacturers by changing rules governing civil lawsuits.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dale P. Kelberman asked Pinsky about an August 1997 letter from Evans to a paint company lawyer in which Evans wrote, "As you know, Sen. Paul Pinsky intends to introduce market share legislation" in 1998.
Asked if that were true, Pinsky responded: "Absolutely not. I wasn't even aware of the concept of market share at that point." He said he first learned of the term when reading an article in The Sun last year about the federal probe of Evans and Fulton.
The senator also denied circulating copies of a lead paint bill to some legislative colleagues, an assertion Evans made in a May 1998 letter to his clients.
Evans, once the State House's top-earning lobbyist, and Fulton, a West Baltimore Democrat, are each charged with 11 counts of mail and wire fraud.
Fulton is accused of helping Evans with the fraud by talking about introducing market-share legislation in 1997 and 1998. Fulton never introduced a bill, and prosecutors assert that he discussed it simply to help Evans scare his clients and generate fees.
As part of the scheme, Evans allegedly steered a $10,000 real estate commission to Fulton in 1998. The two men have denied the charges.
Under cross-examination from Evans' lawyer, Robert C. Bonsib, Pinsky acknowledged he had differences with Evans over the years.
"You view your position as one in favor of the little guy against the big guy, don't you?" Bonsib asked.
"I try to protect the interests of working people and poor people," responded Pinsky, one of the General Assembly's most liberal members. "[Evans] represents large clients trying to increase their profit margins."
Bonsib noted that Pinsky had no way of knowing whether Evans may have been told by others that the senator was planning to introduce a market share bill.
"It seems to me that if he was going to use my name, he would have asked me," Pinsky said.
In other testimony, Baltimore Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg said Fulton did not tell him of any plans to introduce a lead-paint bill, even though Rosenberg was widely viewed as the Assembly's leading voice on the issue.
District Judge J. Frederick Motz dealt prosecutors a setback by ruling that the jury could hear evidence that a market share bill was introduced by Rosenberg during the General Assembly this year - after Evans and Fulton were indicted. The legislation failed.
Motz said it was important for the jury to hear about the bill to show that "it was a real issue for the years 1997 to 1999."