State Senator Nat Oaks (D-41) vows to maintain his duties as a member of the Maryland General Assembly during the upcoming 2018 General Assembly session, while fighting federal fraud charges, despite the objections of some of the constituents he is supposed to serve.

State Senator Nat Oaks (Glenn Fawcett /The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Oaks, whose district is primarily in Northwest Baltimore, has pleaded not guilty to a nine-count indictment handed down by U.S. District Court at the end of May including wire fraud and violations of the U.S. Travel Act. The charges are based on assertions that Oaks accepted more than $10,000 in illegal cash payments in May and June of 2016.

The indictment also charges Oaks with taking an additional $5,000 in September 2016 in exchange for a promise to file a $250,000 Bond Bill for a confidential source.  The source turned out to be an FBI agent.  The indictment indicates the transactions were recorded.

Oaks is currently scheduled to appear before U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett for a two-week trial beginning in early March 2018.  However, Stuart O. Simms, Oaks’ attorney asked Bennett to delay the trial until the close of the 2018 General Assembly session April 9, in order for Oaks to represent his district free from the encumbrance of legal proceedings.

However, this is the second time Oaks has been charged with financial malfeasance while representing the 41st District.  At the end of 1988 when he was a member of the House of Delegates, Oaks was convicted in Baltimore City Circuit Court for theft and misconduct in office. He was accused of stealing around $10,000 from a re-election fund (Oaks was appointed to his current seat in the Senate in February 2017, when he replaced Sen. Lisa Gladden due to illness).

Some within the district expressed concerns about Oaks ability to lead given his previous conviction and the current legal clouds hanging over his head. A West Baltimore real estate professional, who wished to remain anonymous told the AFRO, “Any public official who faces serious criminal charges should consider the overall needs of the district and be willing to step aside until the issues are resolved,” she said.

Eben Frederick, president of the Baltimore City Chamber of Commerce, said that critical development discussions and decisions impacting West Baltimore should continue without interruption while Oaks prepares for a 2018 court date. “We’ll reserve any judgement while the legal process plays out,” Frederick told the AFRO, indicating that the Chamber does not weigh-in on open legal investigations.

“West Baltimore is among the various communities within the city that need the continued support of all (of) the city’s elected officials, and we hope that economic development plans and other initiatives continue so that they, and all Baltimoreans receive the support to which they are entitled,” Frederick added.

Residents of the 41st District at Reisterstown Road Plaza expressed more open support for Oaks. Gerald Atkins, whose family members have owned small businesses in the area for years said Oaks needs to connect directly to the people in his district.

“He should let the people know what he stands for and that he’s still capable of doing his job.  Over here, we believe in second chances,” Atkins said, in reference to the Reisterstown Road business district that has struggled in recent years. “He’s not been proven guilty of anything.  He should just stay committed and remain true to the people.”