WASHINGTON — A federal judge Thursday postponed indefinitely the perjury trial of former White House aide Michael K. Deaver until an appeals court can decide Deaver's constitutional challenge of the independent counsel law.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Jackson also delayed ruling on a request from the special prosecutor in the case, Whitney North Seymour, to subpoena Canadian Ambassador Allan E. Gotlieb. Seymour's move had prompted a formal protest Wednesday from the government of Canada.
Deaver has pleaded innocent to five counts of lying to a federal grand jury and a congressional subcommittee about his activities as a lobbyist for Canada and other foreign governments.
Longtime Reagan Confidant
The former public relations executive and longtime confidant of President Reagan left his job as deputy White House chief of staff in 1985. Shortly thereafter, he accepted a contract with the Canadian government to win support from Reagan on anti-pollution policies to control acid rain.
The U.S. Ethics in Government Act restricts former government officials from lobbying on issues with which they dealt while in office and bars them from lobbying their former agencies for a period of one year.
In an interview, Deaver attorney Randall Turk said he was "contemplating" joining Deaver's appeal of the 1978 Ethics in Government Act with a similar case filed by Lt. Col. Oliver L. North against special prosecutor Lawrence E. Walsh in the Iran- contra affair. Both Deaver and North have maintained, unsuccessfully to date, that the special prosecutors are operating unconstitutionally because their appointment by a special three-judge panel usurps executive authority.
Turk said he was "pleased" by the district judge's action Thursday.
"It seemed pointless to us and to the court as well to proceed with a trial that might well be rendered needless, given that the Court of Appeals was apparently soon to decide the constitutional question," Turk said.
The decision "conserves judicial resources, as well as mine," the lawyer added.
Deaver's attorneys also had argued in Thursday's brief hearing that Seymour had failed to supply more than 4,600 documents in the case that were called "essential to our preparation for trial."
Jackson also said Thursday that he would postpone ruling on the subpoena of Gotlieb until the appeals court has decided the constitutional question.
Seymour has maintained that Gotlieb is a "key prosecution witness" who waived diplomatic immunity by answering questions during an investigation last July. In Ottawa, Foreign Minister Joe Clark said it would be a "substantial breach of Canadian sovereignty" to permit a Canadian diplomat to appear before U.S. courts.
Jackson has asked the State Department to submit formal evidence that a subpoena would violate Gotlieb's diplomatic immunity.