A federal judge rejected on Tuesday a request by state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks to dismiss several of the fraud and bribery charges the Baltimore lawmaker is scheduled to face in a trial in U.S. District court next month.
The Baltimore Democrat’s lawyers argued that an allegation that Oaks had state legislation drafted in exchange for a payment from an FBI informant posing as a businessman was not the kind of “official act” that violates federal corruption laws.
Judge Richard D. Bennett rejected that position, calling the argument “without merit.”
“Drafting legislation lies at the very heart of a legislator’s official purpose,” Bennett wrote.
Oaks faces multiple fraud charges in connection with his alleged scheming with the FBI informant, who was posing as a developer pursing projects in Baltimore. Federal prosecutors say Oaks accepted $15,300 in bribes in exchange for helping the informant.
Oaks has pleaded not guilty to all charges, continues to serve in the General Assembly and has filed for reelection.
In challenging some of the charges, Oaks’s lawyers cited a Supreme Court ruling in the bribery case of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell that imposed new limits on federal public corruption cases.
Oaks’ case, which is scheduled for trial in April, centers on his relationship with the informant, whom he met in September 2015. The informant said he was called Mike Henley and was a businessman from Texas. But Oaks’ lawyers have said his real identity is William Myles and that he is a full-time government informant.
Oaks met with Myles over several months and prosecutors allege that he eventually agreed to accept payments for helping him with business projects. The draft legislation proposed issuing a $250,000 bond.
When FBI agents confronted Oaks about the alleged bribes, he agreed to work as an informant himself. But, prosecutors say, he tipped off a lobbyist whom he had agreed to help target. He is scheduled to go on trial for an obstruction of justice charge in connection with that alleged incident in August.