Marvin Mandel Trial: 1977
Tried, Convicted, And Ultimately Acquitted
Defendant: Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel
Crimes Charged: Mail fraud and racketeering
Chief Defense Lawyers: M. Albert Figinski, Eugene Gressman, D. Christopher Ohly, and Arnold M. Weiner
Chief Prosecutors: Russell T. Baker, Jr., Daniel J. Hurson, Barnet D. Skolnik, and Elizabeth H. Trimble
Judge: Robert L. Taylor
Place: Baltimore, Maryland
Dates of Trial: June 1-August 21, 1977
Verdict: Guilty, later overturned
Sentence: 4 years in prison, commuted after 19 months served.
SIGNIFICANCE: The Marvin Mandel trial was a national scandal, exposing massive political corruption at the highest level of Maryland state government. The reversal of Mandel's conviction, however, signaled a limit on the ability to attack state crimes through federal statutes.
On December 31, 1971, a group of businessmen and investors purchased the Marlboro Race Track in Prince George's County, Maryland. Like all of Maryland's horse racing tracks, the Marlboro track was regulated by the state, and it was allotted 18 racing days. Eager to increase their profits, and not too concerned about the means used, the new owners approached Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel and asked for help. Mandel, formerly a strong advocate of strict horse racing regulation, suddenly dropped his opposition to a bill pending in the Maryland General Assembly that would increase Marlboro's racing days from 18 to 36. The bill passed on January 12, 1972. In March 1972, Mandel successfully lobbied the General Assembly to increase the number of racing days again, this time from 36 to 94. Further, Mandel helped the Marlboro owners acquire interests in other Maryland racetracks.
For his help, Mandel received cash and other valuables under the table from the investors. Expensive clothes and jewelry that Mandel purchased were paid for by the racetrack owners, who also gave Mandel a valuable interest in a new Maryland waterfront development called Ray's Point. Federal prosecutors discovered Mandel's activities, however, and indicted him along with racetrack investors Ernest N. Cory, Jr., W. Dale Hess, Irvin Kovens, Harry W. Rodgers III, and William A. Rodgers.
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