Indicted Ex-Lawmaker Fingers Senator in Court Document
By Josh Kurtz
Former state Del. Michael Vaughn (D), indicted earlier this year in the unfolding Prince George’s County liquor board scandal, has suggested in a recent court filing that another Prince George’s lawmaker, state Sen. Douglas Peters (D), is also a target of federal investigators.
In a motion filed in late June to suppress certain electronic evidence that prosecutors are using in their case against Vaughn, his lawyers referenced a telephone number used by Peters that law enforcement authorities were monitoring, and described the senator as a “target” in the investigation.
Peters has never been formally named by prosecutors in any charging document.
The quick reference to Peters and his phone number is the only time the senator is mentioned in Vaughn’s 10-page motion to suppress some of the evidence that the federal government collected against him.
Bruce Marcus, an attorney for Peters, said he was unaware of Vaughn’s court filing and unconcerned that other attorneys are describing his client as a target. He said he’d be more worried if the government was identifying Peters as a target.
“The notion of assignment status to people is one of the things that’s uniquely within the province of the United States government,” he said. “…If you told me the government wrote it down, I’d probably have a different take on it. It’ll get more of my attention if it says it was signed by the United States of America.”
Asked if there was any reason to believe Peters is a target of federal investigators or could have been at any time, Marcus replied, “We don’t get into discussing cases.”
Vaughn’s lawyers who filed the court document, William Purpura and Teresa Whalen, did not respond to phone messages.
Elizabeth Morse, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland, did not respond to phone messages left at her office over the past several days.
Vaughn was indicted by a federal grand jury in March on charges that he had received more than $10,000 in cash payments from liquor store owners in exchange for favorable legislation in Annapolis.
Vaughn had resigned from the House of Delegates in January, citing health reasons. But his resignation came immediately after two liquor store owners, Prince George’s County’s chief liquor board inspector and a member of the county liquor commission were arrested.
The county liquor scandal also involved former Del. Will Campos (D), who resigned abruptly in 2015 and pleaded guilty in January to bribery and conspiracy in a public corruption case involving the liquor industry.
In April, Young Jung Paig, who owned the Central Avenue Restaurant and Liquor Store in Seat Pleasant, pleaded guilty to paying bribes to Vaughn and Campos in exchange for their votes on state legislation that loosened Sunday liquor sales in Prince George’s County.
As the liquor scandal unfolded, political professionals in Annapolis and Upper Marlboro have wondered whether other Prince George’s politicians would become ensnared. But no elected officials other than Vaughn and Campos have been publicly named.
In their court filing in late June, Vaughn’s attorneys argue that the FBI engaged in electronic surveillance of their client based on affidavits that contained insufficient probable cause “and failed to utilize electronic eavesdropping as a last resort after the exhaustion of normal investigative procedures.”
The lawyers, Purpura and Whalen, argue that a federal judge should “suppress any and all wire communications and evidence derived and seized from illegally obtained communications.”
The U.S. attorney’s office has yet to file a response to Vaughn’s motion.