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Fletcher v. Peck - Marvin Mandel Trial

maryland federal smalkin race

Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel's trial was a national scandal, exposing massive political corruption at the highest level of state government. The reversal of Mandel's conviction signaled a limit on the ability to attack state crimes through federal statutes.

When a group of businessmen and investors purchased the Marlboro Race Track in Prince George's County, Maryland, in December of 1971, they approached Mandel for help. They wanted to increase the number of racing days that the track could operate in one year and acquire interests in other Maryland race tracks. In exchange for his assistance Mandel received cash, valuables, and interest in a waterfront development from the investors.

On 21 August 1977, the jury found Mandel guilty of federal mail fraud and racketeering. Mandel went to prison and served 19 months before his sentenced was commuted.

On 12 November 1987, Judge Frederic N. Smalkin of the U.S. District Court of Maryland, overturned Mandel's conviction. Smalkin did not deny the strong evidence of bribery and dishonesty presented at Mandel's trial. However, he insisted that the prosecutors had stretched their interpretation of federal mail fraud and racketeering laws in order to prosecute Mandel for what were, in effect, state crimes.

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