It was 13 years ago when James Cabezas, the legally-blind investigator for the Maryland State Prosecutor’s office, listened to two articles in The Baltimore Sun that would lead the public corruption-fighting agency to evidence that eventually resulted in the conviction and resignation of former Mayor Sheila Dixon.
Cabezas details one of the city’s most momentous public corruption cases in his memoir, “Eyes of Justice,” which The Baltimore Sun has been detailing for its sweeping four-decade-long insight into crimes by city and state elected officials.
Cabezas and his writing partner, journalist Joan Jacobson, hosted a reading, book signing and discussion on Thursday for about 60 people at the Ivy Bookshop.
If you attended, you probably ran into someone you knew. For as the book states: “Smalltimore is a nickname we use for Baltimore because people we meet seem to know somebody else we know.”
And, as the retired investigator notes, “for a criminal investigator gathering informants and sources, I couldn’t be in a better place than Smalltimore.”
Veteran public corruption investigator James Cabezas, who retired last year from the Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor, has written a memoir of a four-decade career taking on corrupt government employees and politicians.
“If it wasn’t for those Smalltimore connections, I might never have caught a city comptroller [Jacqueline F. McLean] stealing thousands through a fictitious employee, a businessman stealing millions from city taxpayers through phony boiler repairs, or a suburban county executive [John Leopold] committing misconduct in office for sending his police detail on political errands and guarding his county car while he had backseat sex.”
And, of course, Dixon.
Cabezas details new elements of the investigation into then-City Council President Dixon. His interest was first piqued after the Sun articles exposed questionable city payments to Dixon’s campaign chairman and a city contractor that employed her sister. Eventually, the state prosecutor’s office convicted the campaign aide, Dale Clark, and the contractor’s founder.
But it was an appointments calendar for Dixon discovered on Clark’s seized computer that set his investigative instincts abuzz. Several dates involved Dixon and contractor Ronald Lipscomb, a developer on city-backed projects who was also her boyfriend.
Corruption in the Baltimore Police Department today may hog the headlines. But back in the 1970s it was suburban public corruption, primarily in Baltimore County, that spurred the creation of the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor.
For example, prosecutors had to call former Baltimore police commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III at 6 a.m. just minutes before their June 2008 raid on Dixon’s home to search for fur coats and other items. They did not want to risk tipping off any police officers who in turn might tip off Dixon, who was then mayor. Fellow investigator John Poliks told the commissioner what was about to happen and asked him to tell the officer detailed to protect Dixon’s home not to radio anyone.