Friends of Milton Tillman Jr.: Raided Businessman’s Political Beneficiaries Discuss Donations

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Aug. 27, 2008

“I know of him, but I don’t know him,” Keiffer Mitchell Jr., former Baltimore city councilman and 2007 mayoral candidate, says when asked about Milton Tillman Jr., the Baltimore bondsman and real-estate investor whose business interests were targeted in Aug. 18 federal law-enforcement raids at seven Baltimore locations. Mitchell’s 2007 campaign last August received a total of $1,000 from Tillman Jr.’s companies–$500 each from 4 Aces Bail Bonds and New Trend Development. Mitchell acknowledges that his family–a political dynasty that includes civil-rights pioneers and U.S. congressmen–goes way back with Tillman Jr. While he doesn’t know him, he says he’s “appreciative of his campaign contribution.”

Mitchell is nonplussed with the idea that it might look bad politically to have received political donations from a man with two federal convictions in his background, and who now, along with his son Milton Tillman III, is being targeted again. “There were members of my family who were convicted and sent to jail,” Mitchell points out during the Aug. 21 phone interview, referring to Clarence Mitchell III and Michael Mitchell, both former elected officials who fell from grace in the 1980s. “Do I kick them out?” he asks, adding that his ex-con cousins “worked on my campaign.”

Altogether, 13 Maryland politicians gathered $8,250 from three Tillman companies since 2001. Most politicians contacted about the donations they received from Tillman enterprises are not as candid as Mitchell. Many of them–state Del. Talmadge Branch (D-45st District), state Sen. Nathaniel McFadden (D-45th District), former Baltimore City Council President Lawrence Bell (D), and former Baltimore City State’s Attorney Stuart Simms (D), who ran for Maryland attorney general in 2006–did not respond to inquiries at all.

Henry Fawell, spokesman for former Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R), writes in an e-mail that “we’ll decline to comment.” Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith couldn’t respond due to illness. A returned phone call from Baltimore City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway (D-7th District) was missed. Baltimore County Circuit Court Associate Judge Mickey Norman spoke to City Paper in April (“Grave Accusations,” Mobtown Beat, April 23), explaining that judicial campaigns are set up to buffer the candidate from knowledge of donors, so he was not aware of the donation from Tillman Jr. State Comptroller Peter Franchot’s campaign spokesman, Tim Daly, says the campaign will be returning Tillman’s money. “We just felt it was the right thing to do,” Daly says.

Two of Tillman Jr.’s beneficiaries–state Sen. Catherine Pugh (D-40th District) and former state Del. Salima Siler Marriott, who is now a Baltimore City deputy mayor–claim never before to have heard the Milton Tillman name. “Nope,” Pugh says repeatedly when asked if she knew him, his name, or anything about him, insisting that “I’ve never heard of him.” Marriott did not return messages for this article, but in April she told City Paper she, too, had never heard of Tillman (“Grave Accusations”).

One recipient of Tillman campaign money is Baltimore City Councilman Bernard “Jack” Young (D-12th District), who is not shy about knowing Tillman Jr. “We grew up in the same community, East Baltimore,” Young explains. “He’s a nice guy.” Asked about indications that Tillman Jr. is tied to the drug trade, Young says, “I’ve heard about the drug allegations before. Any response I make, the government can come after me. So I have no comment.”

Additional reporting by Jeffrey Anderson

Milton’s Till: Donations From Tillman Family Companies to Political Figures

Aug. 23, 2006: $1,000 from Xpress Bail Bonds, to Lawrence Bell (D), former Baltimore City Council President, 1999 candidate for Baltimore Mayor

June 16, 2006: $1,200 from 4 Aces Bail Bonds, to Talmadge Branch, D-45th District, House of Delegates, Majority Whip

Nov. 6, 2007: $100 from 4 Aces Bail Bonds, to Belinda Conaway, D-7th District, Baltimore City Council

Aug. 26, 2002: $500 from 4 Aces Bail Bonds, to Robert Ehrlich (R), former Maryland Governor

Jan. 8, 2008: $1,000 from 4 Aces Bail Bonds, to Peter Franchot (D), Maryland Comptroller

July 29, 2006: $500 from 4 Aces Bail Bonds, to Salima Siler Marriott (D), Baltimore Deputy Mayor, former 40th District Delegate

Jan. 4, 2008: $500 from 4 Aces Bail Bonds, to Nathaniel McFadden, D-45th District, Maryland Senate

Aug. 23, 2007: $1,000 from 4 Aces Bail Bonds ($500) and New Trend Development ($500), to Keiffer Mitchell Jr. (D), former Baltimore City Councilman, 2007 candidate for Baltimore Mayor

March 1, 2005: $500 from 4 Aces Bail Bonds, to Mickey Norman, Baltimore County Circuit Court Associate Judge

Aug. 22, 2003: $250 from 4 Aces Bail Bonds, to Catherine Pugh, D-40th District, Maryland Senate

May 4, 2006: $500 from New Trend Development, to Stuart Simms (D), former Baltimore State’s Attorney, 2006 candidate Maryland Attorney General

July 27, 2004: $1,000 from New Trend Development, to Jim Smith (D), Baltimore County Executive

Sept. 6, 2001: $200 from 4 Aces Bail Bonds, to Bernard “Jack” Young, D-12th District, Baltimore City Council

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