A new lawyer appointed to represent indicted former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell Sr. says that hours of secret FBI tapes peppered with the politician's racial and sexist epithets are irrelevant and should be excluded from his trial because they could impair a jury's ability to reach a fair verdict.
"The vast majority of the recordings simply have nothing to do with the core issues in the case," said Barry J. Pollack, repeating arguments that he made in recent court filings in the case.
Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, whose office is handling the prosecution, countered that the tapes of phone conversations and dinner chatter are vital to prove the bribery accusations lodged against Bromwell, a Baltimore County Democrat who served in the General Assembly for more than two decades.
"Generally, juries are able to distinguish the relevant evidence from any other information that is not directly related to the case," Rosenstein said yesterday. "I'd also say that it's valuable to hear a defendant in his own words."
In October 2005, after years of investigation, federal prosecutors brought a 30-count indictment against Bromwell, accusing him of accepting almost $200,000 in bribes from W. David Stoffregen, the president of a local construction company, in exchange for help in securing publicly funded contracts.
Bromwell's wife, Mary Patricia Bromwell, was charged with taking a salary for a no-show job at a subcontractor controlled by Stoffregen's company, Poole and Kent, in return for her husband's influence. She will be tried with him.
Stoffregen pleaded guilty after his indictment. He has yet to be sentenced, but as part of the plea deal, he began cooperating with federal investigators.
Besides providing evidence against the Bromwells, Stoffregen said he gave "cash and other benefits to other elected officials," according to documents filed by prosecutors. The documents do not identify the politicians.
Bromwell's long-awaited trial had been scheduled to begin in March, but was delayed until late September by U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz after the abrupt and still largely mysterious departure of defense attorneys Joshua R. Treem and Gerard P. Martin for what Motz described as irreconcilable conflicts of interest.
The judge subsequently appointed new lawyers for the couple because the Bromwells were unable to pay for their own attorneys after the government, using federal racketeering laws, seized most of their assets.
That seizure, Pollack said in his filings, should re-evaluated by Motz.
William B. Purpura, who represents Bromwell's wife but has not filed any motions, said yesterday that his client would join with Pollack's legal efforts.
The defense is also seeking full disclosure of the "unindicted co-conspirators" who allegedly worked with the Bromwells but are not named in the indictment.
In another motion, Pollack said that large parts of the indictment should be dismissed before trial because prosecutors failed to show how Bromwell misused his power and abused the public for personal gain.
Yesterday, Rosenstein demurred, saying, "I'm confident that all information that should have been disclosed has been."
Motz released hundreds of pages of Bromwell's transcribed conversations in March after The Sun went to court to obtain them.
The transcripts show that during a November 2001 dinner attended by the senator and an undercover FBI informant posing as a Georgia businessman, Bromwell outlined his ties to the city's movers and shakers. He mentioned H&S; Bakery magnate and Harbor East developer John Paterakis - whom he calls "the bread man" - and Maurice Wyatt, a former appointments secretary to former Gov. Marvin Mandel.
Wyatt was convicted of bribery before being pardoned.
Bromwell, who was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee at the time he was recorded, also talked about his connections to Comcast, the region's leading cable provider. He said he saved the company $75 million because of his legislative efforts. Bromwell's two sons, the senator said, worked for the cable giant at the time. Comcast has denied any improper conduct.
He also used racial characterizations to describe two civil rights leaders, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton, and acknowledged that he felt compelled to vote a black colleague out of the legislative body because of his race.
Find Gregory Kane's column archive at baltimoresun.com/kane