WASHINGTON — Lobbyist and former White House aide Michael K. Deaver traded on his relationship with President Reagan and made "hundreds of thousands of dollars . . . for a few phone calls and contacts" on behalf of business clients, a court-appointed special prosecutor charged Tuesday.
In an opening statement to jurors at Deaver's perjury trial, independent counsel Whitney North Seymour Jr. said Deaver lied to investigators about his contacts with Reagan Administration officials "to cover up what he had done."
But Herbert J. Miller Jr., Deaver's chief attorney, told jurors in his own opening remarks that "this case is not about political corruption, not about lobbying activities and not about making a lot of money."
Sees No Evidence
Miller suggested that Seymour has a weak case because he could find no evidence, despite a 10-month investigation, that Deaver had violated any lobbying restrictions or ethics laws. Instead, Seymour obtained an indictment charging only that Deaver had given false answers under oath, Miller said.
Deaver is charged with perjuring himself on five occasions in testimony last year before a congressional subcommittee and a federal grand jury investigating his lobbying activities.
But Miller insisted that although Deaver had testified inaccurately about his business affairs, his erroneous statements were not intentional.
"It would have been foolhardy for him to commit perjury when he had already filed papers with the Justice Department, as required by law, describing the foreign clients he was representing and what he was doing for them," the defense attorney said.
Miller said Deaver had answered 1,050 questions during more than 10 hours before the House panel and grand jury and was bound to make "some mistakes."
In addition, Deaver had "a very serious drinking problem that had gotten out of control"--accompanied by a near-fatal kidney problem--and his memory became affected by it, his attorney said.
Whether Deaver had a motive for lying is expected to be a crucial issue as dozens of witnesses are called to testify at his trial during the next three to four weeks.
Seymour, for his part, said Deaver's motive was to conceal from the public that he was not a "strategic planner," as his literature billed him, but a highly paid influence peddler who tried to win favors for clients through phone calls or contacts with his former White House associates.
He said Deaver's alleged cover-up came at a time when he was about to sell his consulting business to the London firm of Satchi & Satchi for up to $16 million. But publicity about his activities caused the deal to fall through, Seymour told the jury.
Miller countered that Deaver was "a successful, dedicated businessman" who left the White House in May, 1985, because of the pressures of government service and "because he was not getting to see his family as much as he wanted to."
Deaver's wife, Carolyn, and 17-year-old daughter, Amanda, sat just behind the courtroom railing during the session.
'Not That Kind of Man'
"If he had sought to trade on his relationship with the President," Miller said, "he would have called Ronald Reagan himself on behalf of clients, not some lower-ranking official. But he's not that kind of man, and he didn't."
Reagan and his wife, Nancy, have acknowledged that Deaver has been a close personal friend for more than 20 years. The Reagans are on a list of witnesses who may be called to testify.