Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan may be called to testify in the upcoming criminal trial of a former top state official, according to court records.
Roy McGrath spent 11 weeks as the Republican governor’s chief of staff in the summer of 2020, but resigned under pressure after it was reported that he had negotiated a lucrative “severance” payout from his prior state job. That reporting led to investigations that uncovered other alleged wrongdoing and culminated in the filing of dozens of criminal charges against McGrath in both state and federal court.
McGrath is facing trial in federal court at the end of this month on charges of wire fraud, theft and falsifying records that are part of a federal investigation.
Ahead of the trial and a pretrial hearing next week, prosecutors and defense attorneys on Tuesday jointly submitted a proposed list of questions to screen potential jurors, including: “Governor Larry Hogan will be called as a witness by the Government in this case. Does the fact that the Governor of the State of Maryland will be a witness for the Government affect your ability to be fair and impartial?”
Prospective jurors also would be asked: “Would you give more or less weight to the testimony of Mr. Hogan merely because he is the Governor of the State of Maryland?”
Though the proposed questions were listed in a joint filing by the defense and the prosecution, prosecutors noted that they object to those two questions.
The proposal also suggests asking prospective jurors if they have any experience with the governor’s office and whether they have any “strong opinions” about the governor’s office or the Maryland Environmental Service, the state agency that McGrath led before he became Hogan’s chief of staff.
Asked about the possibility that Hogan may be called to testify, the governor’s spokesman Mike Ricci did not address the question directly, but said in a statement: “Over the last two years, our office has been actively assisting in these ongoing investigations. As these cases move forward, we are confident that the justice system will uphold the public trust.”
McGrath’s attorney, Joseph Murtha, declined to comment.
One of the key questions in the McGrath case is whether the governor gave his blessing to McGrath’s efforts to negotiate a payout from the Maryland Environmental Service as he left to take the chief of staff job. McGrath received a lump-sum payment of one year’s salary, more than $233,000, as he left the Maryland Environmental Service, which is an independent state agency that carries out public works and environmental projects primarily for local governments and other state agencies.
McGrath also was paid more than $55,000 in expense reimbursements as he left the agency.
McGrath has said that Hogan approved of the payout and offered a document that he said showed this. Members of the Maryland Environmental Service’s board of directors have testified in hearings that McGrath led them to believe Hogan approved of the settlement.
The governor’s team has said that document was faked, with a spokesman calling it “a complete fabrication, and bears no resemblance to the memos or documents submitted to the governor.”
Hogan disavowed knowledge of the severance payout, saying in a statement in 2020: “To be clear, I did not approve, recommend, or have any involvement whatsoever in any of these decisions made by the board of directors of MES with respect to the former director Roy McGrath or any other individual.”
McGrath’s trial in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, which includes charges that he illegally recorded conversations with the governor and other top officials, is scheduled for 2023.
The Daily Record first reported the possibility of Hogan testifying in the McGrath trial.