- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2005

BALTIMORE — A federal judge has dismissed an indictment against a former state agency director who was accused of misusing $6.3 million in federal money, partly to pay staff in the office of then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced yesterday.

At the request of the government, U.S. District Judge Andre Davis threw out the three-count indictment against Stephen Amos, who was the executive director of the Governor’s Office on Crime Control and Prevention in the administration of former Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Mr. Amos was accused of wrongly using 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 anti-crime office, according to the indictment.

Mrs. Townsend, who oversaw the agency, was never accused of wrongdoing in the investigation, which became public while she was running for governor in 2002. She described the investigation at the time as “political garbage” designed to disrupt her race against Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Gregg Bernstein, an attorney representing Mr. Amos, described the dismissal as “complete vindication.”

“Mr. Amos has consistently maintained throughout the time that he worked at GOCCP that he did not intentionally misapply any program funds as alleged, and the action by the government today validates that assertion,” Mr. Bernstein said.

The government maintained that the money was supposed to be spent to renovate correctional and detention facilities in Maryland’s juvenile-justice system. Other funds were supposed to beused to hire additional judges, prosecutors and probation officers.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office decided to drop the case after learning last month of a 1989 legal opinion about how grants from the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs could be used for administrative purposes.

Although a strict reading of the document supports the argument that the money couldn’t be used in the manner cited in the indictment, “another reasonable interpretation of the full opinion supports Mr. Amos’ position,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Prosecutors only found out about the legal opinion in December, after numerous requests were made for any documentation supporting or discussing the use of the program funds for administrative purposes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Prosecutors concluded the new document was likely to raise a reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors as to whether Mr. Amos intended to violate the law.

Interim U.S. Attorney Allen Loucks said the case was initiated “only after multiple credible sources with inside knowledge came to us with information that a crime had been committed.”

“At the time the indictment was returned, the evidence supported a successful prosecution of this case,” Mr. Loucks said. “The newly obtained evidence, however, requires our office to move to dismiss the charges against Mr. Amos.”

Mr. Loucks took office this month to replace former U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio, who resigned last month to join a Washington law firm. The charges against Mr. Amos were brought during Mr. DiBiagio’s tenure.

Mr. Amos, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, was indicted in March in an investigation that had been under way for about two years, focusing on an agency expanded by Mrs. Townsend.

No one else was charged in the indictment.

Mr. Amos became head of the office in July 2000. He left in February 2003, shortly after Mr. Ehrlich took office and replaced the staff.

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