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Maryland - Baltimore Mayor Convicted on 1 Gift Card Charge

Published on: December 1, 2009 01:45 PM
By: AP
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Mayor Sheila Dixon leaves City Hall and heads to Courthouse East as the jury continues deliberations for a seventh day. (Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna / December 1, 2009)Mayor Sheila Dixon leaves City Hall and heads to Courthouse East as the jury continues deliberations for a seventh day. (Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna / December 1, 2009)

Maryland - Baltimore’s mayor was convicted Tuesday on a single charge she took gift cards intended for the city’s poor. Although Sheila Dixon was acquitted of a felony theft charge, her conviction could force her from office.

Jurors deliberated more than six days after hearing the Democrat accused of using or keeping $630 worth of gift cards. She allegedly solicited most of the cards from a wealthy developer and then bought electronics at Best Buy, clothes at Old Navy and knickknacks at Target.

The jury convicted her on one count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary and acquitted her on two counts of felony theft and one count of misconduct in office. Jurors failed to reach verdict on another count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary.

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Prosecutors painted a picture of a corrupt official going on personal shopping sprees and described a collection of electronics found during a raid of her home: an Xbox, a PlayStation 2 and a video camera. A DVD of the action crime film, “Four Brothers,” was still in its original wrapping, State Prosecutor Robert Rohrbaugh said during opening statements, receipts dangling from his hand.

Dixon’s lawyers blamed the case on developer Ronald Lipscomb, a married man whom they said lavished her with gifts, including gift cards sent anonymously, as he pursued her romantically. Dixon thought gift cards delivered anonymously by another developer also came from Lipscomb, the defense argued.

Dixon’s defense team called just four witnesses, including the mayor’s pastor and a florist who testified about an anonymous, $285 bouquet sent by Lipscomb. Her attorneys argued she thought some of the gift cards were intended as personal gifts, while others, found in her home, were forgotten leftovers from a charity event.

Her conviction could force her suspension from office upon sentencing, followed by removal if she loses all appeals. City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is in line to be elevated to the mayor’s office, and remaining council members would pick a new president.

Dixon, 55, has been under the cloud of the City Hall corruption probe for nearly four years, since she was City Council president. She was indicted in January.

Still, she remains popular in Maryland’s largest city of about 630,000 residents.

Dixon became Baltimore’s first African-American woman mayor when she succeeded Martin O’Malley in January 2007 after he was elected governor. She easily won a four-year term in November 2007.

She was praised during her first year in office for tackling crises swiftly, and her police commissioner, Frederick H. Bealefeld III, oversaw a drop in homicides to a 20-year-low. Dixon also has pushed for a “cleaner, greener Baltimore” by introducing a new recycling program. Under her watch, the city sued lending giant Wells Fargo for allegedly singling out black residents for high-interest subprime mortgages, leading to foreclosures and vacant properties.

The gift card case has revived talk of Dixon’s perceived sense of entitlement. Her critics point to a pattern of behavior that suggests she thinks rules don’t apply to her. When she became City Council president in 1999, the state ethics commission advised her to step down from her part-time state government job, saying it raised potential conflicts of interest. Dixon kept the second job for more than two years.

She also steered city business to a company that employed her sister. And the city paid Dixon’s campaign chairman, without a contract, to do computer work at City Hall.

Dixon, a divorced mother, is known for chic attire and a quick temper. During a 1991 debate at City Hall on redistricting, she caused a stir when she took off one of her shoes, held it up and told white City Council members: “Now the shoe is on the other foot.”

Shoes came back to haunt her during the City Hall probe. Prosecutors said during the investigation that she bought a $570 pair of Jimmy Choo sandals while in Chicago with Lipscomb in 2004.

During the trial, her relatives, some City Council members and members of the city’s business community attended to show their support.

The Maryland Minority Contractors Association Inc. printed bumper stickers reading, “Save our Sisters,” in support of Dixon and City Councilwoman Helen Holton, who is criminally charged with taking contributions that exceed campaign finance limits — including contributions from Lipscomb.

The mayor’s legal troubles aren’t over with this case. She faces a separate trial on perjury charges stemming from accusations that she didn’t report gifts from Lipscomb. Lipscomb told a grand jury that he once gave Dixon $4,000 after the Chicago shopping spree. Dixon apparently used the money to pay her American Express bill.

Lipscomb made an illegal campaign contribution to Holton. The conviction will be expunged if he stays out of further legal trouble.


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Read Comments (13)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Dec 01, 2009 at 02:13 PM Anonymous Says:

When the article claims that she 'easily won' the election down here, it neglects to mention that something like 20% of the city actually voted. She's useless and always has been. She only won by inertia after O'Malley left and she's a nasty, abrasive, useless politician. The dip in homicides is probably because she's upholding the previous PD policy of not reporting crimes that are politically damaging, such as homicides which point out the government's incompetence. We've actually had one of the most violent years in recent history this year, no thanks to this empty figurehead. I hope she has to forfeit the office.

2

 Dec 01, 2009 at 02:14 PM Anonymous Says:

Finally the truth comes out. Twenty-five years ago before she went into politics, she was in a cahoots with a friend of her to try to extort money from my father, and fortunately her scheme failed but she got away with it. Now she's gonna pay!

3

 Dec 01, 2009 at 02:31 PM outoftown yeshivish Says:

Great. Go after her and spend tens of thousands of tax dollars while the Ceo ganavim with fat degrees from fancy universities stole billions from the banks and private citizens and tens of thousands are out of jobs. These CEO's live the high life forever and are never indited for driving corporations into the ground for being unethical and not having the best interest of the investor in mind only themselves which is stipulated in their company contract.
Upside down world.

4

 Dec 01, 2009 at 03:52 PM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

When the article claims that she 'easily won' the election down here, it neglects to mention that something like 20% of the city actually voted. She's useless and always has been. She only won by inertia after O'Malley left and she's a nasty, abrasive, useless politician. The dip in homicides is probably because she's upholding the previous PD policy of not reporting crimes that are politically damaging, such as homicides which point out the government's incompetence. We've actually had one of the most violent years in recent history this year, no thanks to this empty figurehead. I hope she has to forfeit the office.

There isn't an opposition party in Baltimore, so Democrats always win every election. The last Republican mayor was elected in 1963 (he then endorsed Lyndon Johnson in 1964), the last Republican member of the state legislature from Baltimore was elected in 1954, and there has been no Republican member of the Baltimore City Council elected since the 1930s. Republicans have for the most part abandoned interest in urban America, but in Baltimore it is worse than anywhere else.

5

 Dec 01, 2009 at 03:55 PM anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

When the article claims that she 'easily won' the election down here, it neglects to mention that something like 20% of the city actually voted. She's useless and always has been. She only won by inertia after O'Malley left and she's a nasty, abrasive, useless politician. The dip in homicides is probably because she's upholding the previous PD policy of not reporting crimes that are politically damaging, such as homicides which point out the government's incompetence. We've actually had one of the most violent years in recent history this year, no thanks to this empty figurehead. I hope she has to forfeit the office.

I have lived in BAltimore for more than 50 years and your assessment smacks like you have an ax to grind or are an unemployed aspiring politician

6

 Dec 01, 2009 at 05:14 PM HaLevi Says:

Reply to #5  
anonymous Says:

I have lived in BAltimore for more than 50 years and your assessment smacks like you have an ax to grind or are an unemployed aspiring politician

Of course I have an ax to grind! I live in Baltimore and I have enough שכל to see that she's part of the single-party system here that's causing untold harm to the city and especially the Jewish community! Do you remember a few פסחים ago when a man was beaten nearly to death by 3 'urban youths' and she came and stood up at the JCC and told us to pity their upbringings? How about the fact that she frequently loses her temper at reporters who ask questions about her unethical behavior? She had a close relative who 'happened' to be a prominent member of a company that she routed government contracts to, which is illegal and unethical, but she still got away with it. She only won because nobody votes. Its a simple, clear fact. She has a history of incompetence, corruption and bad relations with our community, another simple, clear fact. The only way this city will ever have a chance of recovery from its current miserable state is if idiots like this are run out of office and competent, honest and strong leaders are put in their place.

7

 Dec 01, 2009 at 06:03 PM Shimon Says:

She's actually trying to placate the Jewish community lately. Last week, she invited dignitaries to City Hall for a crab cake luncheon.

8

 Dec 01, 2009 at 06:32 PM anonymous Says:

Reply to #6  
HaLevi Says:

Of course I have an ax to grind! I live in Baltimore and I have enough שכל to see that she's part of the single-party system here that's causing untold harm to the city and especially the Jewish community! Do you remember a few פסחים ago when a man was beaten nearly to death by 3 'urban youths' and she came and stood up at the JCC and told us to pity their upbringings? How about the fact that she frequently loses her temper at reporters who ask questions about her unethical behavior? She had a close relative who 'happened' to be a prominent member of a company that she routed government contracts to, which is illegal and unethical, but she still got away with it. She only won because nobody votes. Its a simple, clear fact. She has a history of incompetence, corruption and bad relations with our community, another simple, clear fact. The only way this city will ever have a chance of recovery from its current miserable state is if idiots like this are run out of office and competent, honest and strong leaders are put in their place.

this city is populated by transit people . Those who have money live in Owins Mills or other counties . I too live in Baltimore and know as much as you

9

 Dec 01, 2009 at 06:39 PM anonymous Says:

Baltimore as long as I have lived here had two decent mayors one a democrat D'Alessandro and the other a liberal Pepublican McKeldin , a breed no longer existing. The rest were not able to govern because of the shift in ethnic makeup of the city population.

10

 Dec 01, 2009 at 07:13 PM gop 2010 Says:

Reply to #4  
Charlie Hall Says:

There isn't an opposition party in Baltimore, so Democrats always win every election. The last Republican mayor was elected in 1963 (he then endorsed Lyndon Johnson in 1964), the last Republican member of the state legislature from Baltimore was elected in 1954, and there has been no Republican member of the Baltimore City Council elected since the 1930s. Republicans have for the most part abandoned interest in urban America, but in Baltimore it is worse than anywhere else.

Perhaps it was urban america who didn't show intrest in the gop.p.s.the gop won 2 more seats in city council in nyc last month.

11

 Dec 01, 2009 at 08:34 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
anonymous Says:

this city is populated by transit people . Those who have money live in Owins Mills or other counties . I too live in Baltimore and know as much as you

I'm proud of you :) You must realize that the Jewish community is also located in Baltimore City and this mayor is giving us a lot of tzorus... Are you implying that people who either can't afford to live in Owings Mills or don't want to live in a frum community thats as weak as Owings Mills are inferior? If you are then I presume you to be one of elitist democrats who have destroyed the political culture of this state...

12

 Dec 01, 2009 at 10:10 PM duvdl Says:

I am not sure what you people are talking about. Ethically, Dixon might leave much to be desired. But what she does for our community and the city as a whole is better than that O'Malley loser who used to be in here. She has a staffer in her office who works solely on issues within our community. She is one of the driving forces behind Hatzalah. She is responsible for repaving almost every single roadway in our neighborhood. What has she done so bad for the city? When other mayors are struggling to keep afloat, she is working on how to make things better. Let's see some solid proof of what you are talking about.

Duvdl

13

 Dec 01, 2009 at 11:51 PM me Says:

Call me a racist, but the problem is Black people vote black regardless of platform, ethics, or how many allegations, indictments, or convictions are outstanding. Marion Barry, Alcee hastings, Sharp James, Adam Clayton Powell IV, Kwame Kilpatrick, etc.

14

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