The mysterious book purporting to tell the true story about fugitive former government official Roy McGrath was published on Wednesday morning.
Political insiders and others fascinated with McGrath’s case quickly started reading the 52-page book, which author Ryan Cooper claims was written with cooperation from McGrath. Law enforcement is reading as well, and legal experts expect the book will affect McGrath’s federal case on charges of wire fraud, theft and falsifying a document — if he is ever tried.
McGrath was the chief of staff to then-Gov. Larry Hogan in the summer of 2020. His career quickly unraveled after it was reported that he’d negotiated a generous severance payout from the state agency where he previously worked when he left to join the governor’s team.
Investigations by journalists, state lawmakers and criminal investigators followed, culminating in state and federal criminal charges in the fall of 2021. McGrath was set to go on trial last week, but he never showed up.
Federal authorities have been searching for McGrath, who was living in Naples, Florida, as he awaited trial. The author rushed to publish “Betrayed: The True Story of Roy McGrath” on Amazon’s Kindle platform. It went live on Wednesday at a cost of $4.99.
The Baltimore Banner read the book, and here’s what you need to know.
It offers a defense of McGrath’s allegedly criminal actions
Two of the chapters that the author provided early to The Baltimore Banner described McGrath’s severance deal and details of the Hogan administration’s flawed purchase of coronavirus test kits from a South Korean company.
McGrath is facing federal charges of wire fraud and theft related to the severance, specifically the allegation that he misled Maryland Environmental Service officials into approving the severance by implying that Hogan supported the deal. The book’s depiction of a conversation between McGrath and Hogan about taking the chief of staff job doesn’t offer open-and-shut proof that Hogan approved of the severance.
The remaining chapters in the full book, as released Wednesday, touch on the stories behind other charges. In many cases, the book doesn’t deny the acts took place, but instead tries to explain or minimize them.
Wiretapping: State prosecutors have charged McGrath with secretly recording nine conversations with other officials in 2020, in violation of the state’s laws against wiretapping. The book states: “Roy had begun recording select conversations in order to protect himself from what he saw as a looming scandal. Ironically, the government would later try to use those recordings against Roy instead.”
Falsifying time cards: The federal case against McGrath alleges that he essentially stole from the Maryland Environmental Service when he filled out his time card indicating he was working when he was really on vacation, two separate times. The book describes McGrath taking one call from a state senator for an hour when he was on a cruise. But it doesn’t account for all the other times prosecutors allege he falsified time cards.
“Roy always prioritized his professional obligations and always made time, every day, to keep up on them, even during the once-in-a-lifetime cruise,” the book says.
Harvard tuition: The book spends three pages defending McGrath’s attendance at an online leadership course put on by Harvard University in June 2020 that ultimately was paid for by the Maryland Environmental Service.
Prosecutors allege that McGrath had a subordinate pay for the course himself. The subordinate then submitted an expense reimbursement that McGrath approved without disclosing the expense to the Maryland Environmental Service board.
The book claims that it was “very routine” for staff to pay for expenses for higher-ranking officials. The book also claims that there was not a problem with McGrath attending the online course on the MES dime when at that point he was working at the State House.
Art museum donations: Another three pages of the book are devoted to an allegation that McGrath inappropriately had the Maryland Environmental Service pay thousands of dollars to an art museum on the Eastern Shore.
In the book, McGrath disputes the prosecutors’ allegation that he had made a personal pledge to support the Academy Art Museum in Easton and then had MES write a check to cover that pledge.
“Roy saw the Academy as an opportunity to expose local MES employees ... to a cultural opportunity they might not otherwise have ever had the chance to experience,” the book states. It doesn’t offer any examples of MES employees working with the museum.
Falsified memo: Prosecutors allege that McGrath publicly circulated a memo that purported to show Hogan signing off on his pay and severance package when joining as chief of staff. The Hogan administration and prosecutors say the memo was a fake.
The book describes the memo as similar to memos between Hogan and his prior chiefs of staff. “He gave it to Hogan with a stack of other memos and it was returned to him, approved,” the author writes.
There’s no explanation of exactly when this happened. The memo itself is dated the same day that McGrath verbally accepted the job offer to be chief of staff.
It claims that others were responsible for McGrath’s downfall
The book makes a clumsy and vague claim that others were responsible for setting McGrath up and bringing him down.
Much of his ire is focused on Hogan, who quickly distanced himself from McGrath once the severance became public through news reports. Hogan has publicly and repeatedly said he did not know about the details of the severance, and he was expected to be a witness for the prosecution at trial.
The book insinuates that Hogan engineered the legislative and criminal investigations into McGrath, but doesn’t offer any proof. The book also doesn’t offer any motive for why Hogan would want to further a scandal within his administration at a time when he was managing the pandemic response and thinking ahead to his next political steps.
“As a result of his resolute loyalty, Roy was politically undermined, attacked, and ultimately persecuted and prosecuted in a collusion orchestrated by Hogan,” the author writes. At another point, the author refers to the former governor as “Lyin’ Larry.”
McGrath, meanwhile, is portrayed as a successful government executive who would have been victorious at trial. The book describes McGrath as “a consistent, lifelong conservative, yet pragmatic, Republican.”
Some involved in events described see evidence McGrath helped write the book
The author has claimed that he worked with McGrath on the book, but has yet to respond to The Banner’s requests for proof. Still, the book includes a level of detail inside Hogan’s administration and the investigation that would have been known by only a few people.
Multiple political insiders told The Baltimore Banner that parts of the book rang true and represent McGrath’s perspective. They believe he likely had a hand in the book’s production.
We do know that McGrath told a Washington Post reporter in 2021 that he was working on a manuscript. McGrath told the Post his working title was: “Operation Enduring Friendship: A Maryland Politician’s Legacy of Lies and Deception.”
The book is also full of petty personal complaints and gripes about various officials in the Hogan administration that would be difficult for someone without access to the State House world to write about.
It also includes specific details inside the State House, such as internal discussions about which news channels the governor should appear on. There also are pictures of what appear to be notes of appreciation to McGrath that were signed by the governor.
William C. Brennan Jr., the attorney for McGrath’s wife, said she doesn’t know the author.
“She’s generally aware her husband was considering writing a book, and that he was talking to someone about writing a book. But she doesn’t know who that person was,” Brennan said. “She’s very worried about her husband, about his welfare and his whereabouts.”
It’s potential evidence if McGrath is caught
Defense attorneys routinely warn clients against discussing their crimes publicly. At trial, prosecutors could seize on any inconsistency or admission in their statements.
The supposed McGrath tell-all captured the attention not only of Annapolis insiders, but the authorities searching for the fugitive.
McGrath’s attorney, Joseph Murtha, declined to comment on the contents of the book because of attorney-client privilege. But he expects prosecutors would try to use it to their advantage — if McGrath is caught and tried.
“They would have to be able to directly connect it to Mr. McGrath,” Murtha added.
A book by someone other than a defendant would typically be considered inadmissible hearsay by the courts, but the law makes exception for admissions of guilt. It’s likely federal prosecutors in Baltimore are reading the book closely.
“One-hundred percent, yes, they will look at it. They will try and put it in [as evidence] if there’s anything that’s useful to them,” said James Ulwick, a trial attorney and former assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland. “The value of these kinds of things is significant to a prosecutor because not only do you have statements that might be admissions that you would introduce in your direct case, but you also have statements that you can hold back for cross examination if the defendant takes the stand.”
Ulwick expects authorities want to locate the author.
“I would expect them to issue a grand jury subpoena for the author of the book and have him come into the grand jury and testify about the statements,” he said. “The grand jury subpoena can also be used to identify who the author is.”
The author has been vague about his identity. He offered his name as “Ryan C. Cooper” and described himself Monday to The Banner as someone semi-retired who moved from Hagerstown to Florida and sympathized with McGrath. But he could not be reached again by phone Tuesday or Wednesday. Those calls were met with a recorded message saying the phone number was unavailable.
Authorities, however, could subpoena Amazon for banking information that may lead FBI agents to Cooper. He’s selling editions of the book for $4.99. Once found, prosecutors could call him to testify in the case.
“They can subpoena that author,” Ulwick said, “have him have the book in front of him, say, ‘Turn to page 107. It says here the defendant said x, y and z. Did he tell you that?’”