Thomas L. Bromwell Sr., the former state senator facing federal racketeering charges, has been given a new lawyer provided at no cost, even though a judge said he believes the Baltimore County Democrat may be able to pay for his own defense.
"Although counsel will be appointed to represent the defendants, it appears ... that the defendants may have sufficient resources to contribute financially toward the payment of counsel fees," Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm wrote in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
Signed March 29, the order appears to expose the shaky finances available for Bromwell and his wife to fight a 33-count indictment against them. Federal prosecutors say the couple used the former senator's political influence to win discounted home construction work and a salary for Bromwell's wife, Mary Patricia, for a no-show job with a woman-owned contractor. Barry J. Pollack, a Washington defense attorney who previously worked as a public defender in Baltimore, has been appointed to represent Bromwell, once considered among Annapolis' most influential lawmakers.
"There has been a lot written about the case. But it will ultimately be up for a jury in Baltimore to decide, and I hope that everyone will reserve judgment and let a jury hear the facts," said Pollack.
Listed in the 2007 editions of The Best Lawyers in America and Washington, DC Super Lawyers, Pollack successfully defended Michael Krautz, a leading accountant in the Internet division of Enron Corp. who had been charged with pushing through a bogus transaction in late 2000.
Mary Patricia Bromwell will be represented by court-appointed attorney William Purpura, who has handled several high-profile cases in federal court, including that of a defendant in one of the state's largest arsons in 2004.
Purpura could not be reached yesterday.
The couple's original attorneys left the case without explanation on the eve of the Bromwells' trial, scheduled for last month. Because the couple needed time to find new lawyers, U.S. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz delayed the start of the trial.
Jury selection is now to begin Sept. 25.
The couple's ability to pay for their defense has been a issue after prosecutors froze most of the Bromwells' assets, arguing the government may need to be compensated for the couple's alleged ill-gotten gains. The issue of pretrial asset seizure is on appeal.
Friends and supporters held at least one fundraiser for the couple's legal defense fund, but it is unclear how much was raised. In a recently unsealed transcript of a closed-door meeting with Motz, Bromwell's former attorney told the judge he never intended to make money from his work on the case.
In an interview yesterday, Grimm said that he did not hold a public hearing on the attorney issue for the Bromwells. He said he reviewed court papers filed by the couple, including affidavits detailing their finances. It is common, the judge said, to allow such an appointment for a defendant whose finances are in serious jeopardy. If funds are available at the end of the court proceedings, the Bromwells have to contribute to their defense, according to Grimm's order.
The Bromwells' financial disclosures are listed as public documents in the case. But a court clerk said yesterday they would be unavailable because of federal court policy.
For previous stories on the public corruption case, go to baltimoresun.com/bromwell.