Dixon keeping focus on city

The Baltimore Sun

Mayor Sheila Dixon joined a police task force visiting the homes of gun offenders in Baltimore yesterday, a demonstration that she was focusing on her job hours after the first hearing on the criminal charges she faces.

Earlier, lawyers for Dixon and two other defendants in a City Hall corruption probe requested that one judge hear all of the cases, with separate trials. None of the defendants, their lawyers or prosecutors appeared in court.

Circuit Judge John Philip Miller is considering the request and is to decide in about a week.

Dixon, developer Ronald H. Lipscomb and City Councilwoman Helen L. Holton had been scheduled for arraignment at 9:30 a.m. in Baltimore Circuit Court. The mayor was charged last month with theft, perjury and misconduct after a state prosecutor's probe.

Dixon spent part of the day with police working to keep guns off the streets. The city's gun offender registry requires adults convicted of gun offenses in Baltimore to register their address and report to police every six months. Police visit homes to verify addresses and connect offenders with social services.

Of 200 people in the registry who have been released from prison, only three have been rearrested for gun violations in the past year. Dixon spoke in support of the program, but was also asked by reporters if she would like to soon have her day in court. She has denied any wrongdoing.

The legal case "has got to take its course, and I'm really moving at the advice of my counsel," she said. "I'm really focusing on running this city and keeping things moving, and that's where my focus is and will be."

The judge said yesterday that attorneys for Dixon, Holton and Lipscomb were planning to file a demand for a bill of particulars, a request for details about the specific criminal acts that are alleged. The attorneys must file the request within 15 days. Until the motion is resolved, Dixon, Holton and Lipscomb do not have to enter pleas.

Holton and Lipscomb were indicted Jan. 7 on bribery charges. Prosecutors alleged that Lipscomb paid $12,500 for a political survey commissioned by Holton. She was the head of a committee that oversaw tax breaks worth millions of dollars connected to Lipscomb projects in Inner Harbor East.

Two days later, a grand jury indicted Dixon on 12 counts of theft, perjury, fraud and misconduct in office. She is the city's first female mayor and first to face criminal charges while in office.

Prosecutors allege that Dixon received more than $15,000 in gifts from Lipscomb, her one-time boyfriend, while she was City Council president. Dixon is also accused of taking $3,400 worth of gift cards intended for needy families for personal use, as gifts to herself or to staff.

Dixon's attorney, Arnold Weiner, said yesterday that consolidating the cases under one judge would be more efficient for the court and for all sides. The state prosecutor's office supported that request, according to the judge.

Weiner said he and the other defense attorneys also want clarification on the legal issues tied to the criminal allegations.

Gerard P. Martin, Lipscomb's attorney, said the goal of asking for a bill of particulars is to get as much information as possible early in the case, "to try and see what they're really talking about."

"They have all kinds of records, and they've had two years to look at them all," he said.

An attorney for Holton could not be reached for comment. The state prosecutor, Robert A. Rohrbaugh, declined to comment.

As Dixon was wrapping up her news conference yesterday outside the state parole and probation office in the Barclay neighborhood, someone yelled, "We love you, Mayor Dixon! We love you!"

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