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2 Oklahoma Men Indicted in Death Plot on Ortega

May 07, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Two Oklahoma men identified as right-wing extremists were indicted for conspiring to assassinate President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua in a plot that included asking Rep. Philip M. Crane (R-Ill.) for advice, the Justice Department announced today.

The indictment accused Donnell Howard, 35, of Maysville, Okla., and John Norris, 30, of Purcell, Okla., of plotting for two months, beginning last Dec. 1, to kill Ortega.

The indictment said that Norris went so far as to contact Crane, a conservative, last Dec. 23 "about travel to Honduras with military equipment and to request that Congressman Crane provide him with names of 'contacts' in Honduras."

Crane Unaware of Purpose

The indictment did not specifically say that Norris spelled out in the conversation with Crane that he was planning on killing Ortega. But the Justice Department said Crane was not aware of the purpose of the defendants' planned trip to Nicaragua.

The indictment also said that Norris contacted Crane's office that month to discuss plans to take guns to Honduras and "to request advice on . . . supplies for covert operations."

Crane and members of his office cooperated fully in the criminal investigation, Justice Department spokesman John Russell said.

The indictment alleges Howard told unindicted co-conspirators that a financial backer was willing to pay $5 million for Ortega's assassination, but U.S. Atty. Layn Phillips told reporters in Tulsa, Okla., that the investigation failed to identify any such financial support.

Phillips said Howard and Norris allegedly tried to recruit people with military backgrounds to serve in the mission.

FBI Contacted

The plot was thwarted, however, when "an individual who was recruited to join in the mission contacted the FBI," the indictment said.

Norris and Howard were charged with conspiracy to kill a foreign official and attempting to kill a foreign official, although the indictment did not spell out whether any attempt was actually carried out against Ortega's life.

In addition, Howard was charged in the three-count indictment with perjury by lying to the grand jury in Tulsa that indicted him.

Norris is in custody while Howard is a fugitive, Russell said.

If convicted, each faces up to life in prison and fines of from $500,000 to $750,000.

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