- The Washington Times - Monday, March 29, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — The former director of a state agency that distributes law-enforcement grants pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges of misusing $6.3 million in federal funds.

A federal indictment unsealed this month accused Stephen Amos of using some of the federal money to pay staff in the office of former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Mrs. Townsend has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Andre Davis, but no trial date has been set.

Gregg Bernstein, a lawyer representing Mr. Amos, said his client is looking forward to clearing his name in court. He told U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Gauvey that Mr. Amos was not accused of personally taking any of the money.

Mr. Amos was released on his own recognizance.

The federal indictment says Mr. Amos, 44, used federal and state funds to pay the salaries of 10 persons who worked in Mrs. Townsend’s office, including her deputy chief of staff and several speechwriters. Money also was diverted to pay more than 40 employees in the state anticrime office, the indictment said.

The money was supposed to be spent to renovate correctional and detention facilities in Maryland’s juvenile-justice system, U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio said when the indictment was unsealed. Other funds were supposed to be used to hire additional judges, prosecutors and probation officers.

The federal investigation of the anticrime office has been under way for about two years.

The probe became public when Mrs. Townsend ran for governor, and she described the investigation at the time as “political garbage” designed to disrupt her race against Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who won the election.

To prosecute Mr. Amos, investigators used a federal law that allows prosecutors to investigate corruption in state and local agencies that have received more than $10,000 in federal aid. The law is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court by a Minnesota real-estate developer who contends that it is unconstitutional.

If the high court rules that the statute is unconstitutional, the charges will fail.

Mr. Amos, of Catonsville, became head of the office in July 2000. He left in February, shortly after Mr. Ehrlich took office and replaced the staff.

If convicted on all charges, Mr. Amos faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000.

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