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Man Convicted of Selling Arms to Iran Is Freed

July 03, 1987|United Press International

ATLANTA — A man convicted of selling arms to Iran was released from prison Thursday on the orders of a judge who questioned the "fair play" of holding him in light of the Iran- contra affair.

U.S. District Judge Robert Vining of Atlanta ordered Lemuel Stevens freed for four months to give attorneys time to uncover some of the same information being sought by the congressional committees investigating the affair.

"Such information could be highly material, since a sentencing judge could well determine that basic notions of justice and fair play were being undermined by the government's prosecuting an individual for doing acts it publicly abhorred while secretly condoning," Vining said.

Stevens, president of International Services & Logistics Ltd., was sentenced to three years in prison in September, 1985, when he admitted conspiring to ship military equipment to Chile and Iran in 1984.

Freed From Federal Camp

He was released Thursday from a federal camp in Big Spring, Tex., a prison spokeswoman said.

In his ruling, the judge said: "This court holds that if the United States government was engaging in such contradictory conduct and if such evidence had been disclosed to the defense, and thereby to the court, there is a reasonable probability that the sentence imposed upon the defendant would have been different."

Vining said the fact that officials of the U.S. government may have been involved in a scheme to sell arms to Iran "does not mean that the United States government cannot prosecute an individual for making such sales as a private citizen."

If however, the government was selling arms "as part of official government policy, such information could certainly be material to the punishment imposed upon an individual convicted of selling arms to Iran."

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