Federal prosecutors told a jury yesterday that a former Baltimore Development Corp. official extorted $5,000 from two businessmen, while his attorney said the requests for money were "stupid" but not criminal.
Terry P. Dean, 47, is on trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, charged with soliciting $2,500 from each man to help defray the closing costs on a home in Forest Park. Both businessmen were involved in revitalization projects Dean helped to shepherd at BDC.
"The defendant in this case did not use a gun or a knife to commit the crime," Assistant U.S. Attorney Dale P. Kelberman said in his opening statement. But he said Dean used a weapon "just as potent: He used his government office to obtain funds."
Bruce Iannatuono, owner of Chesapeake Advertising, and Thomas Brooks of 6100 Seaforth LLC received financial assistance from the BDC, the city's quasi-public development arm. It provides financial assistance to help bring companies and jobs to Baltimore.
Dean, who had worked for BDC as a senior economic development director, was heard on FBI wiretaps urging Brooks, the developer of a 4.6-acre office park in East Baltimore, to help pay the $7,500 settlement costs on his $108,000 house, according to Kelberman.
Kelberman promised jurors that a tape of an Aug. 17, 2001, meeting at ESPN Zone in the Inner Harbor would make clear that the money was part of a quid pro quo arrangement.
"Mr. Dean was recorded saying, 'I'll try to give you as much inside help as I can,'" Kelberman said. Attorney Kenneth W. Ravenell, representing Dean, told jurors that comment was taken out of context.
"Mr. Dean is a nice person," Ravenell said. "What the government is going to ask you to believe is that in August of 2001, Mr. Dean abandoned the life that he had lived for so long and said, 'I'm going to become a criminal and I am going to in fact extort money from people.'"
The defense attorney said Dean merely approached a number of businessmen whom he knew through work to help him with his financial difficulties.
"Mr. Dean made a very stupid, tragic mistake," Ravenell said at the end of his statement. "This is not extortion."