WASHINGTON — Michael K. Deaver, a close associate and friend of Ronald Reagan through most of his political life, was found guilty today of lying under oath when he denied using his influence with the President in his career as a lobbyist.
Deaver, who served as Reagan's deputy White House chief of staff, was convicted by a U.S. District Court jury of two counts of lying to a grand jury and one count of lying to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that was investigating allegations that his lobbying violated federal ethics laws.
Each of the three counts carries a five-year prison term. Fines could total $22,000.
The jury acquitted Deaver of one count charging that he had lied to the grand jury and another that he had given false testimony to the subcommittee.
In a written statement, Reagan said he and his wife, Nancy, were sorry to learn of the verdict. "He has been a longtime friend, and has served with dedication," the President said.
"I'm obviously very disappointed," Deaver said on the courthouse steps. "But at the same time I know in my heart that I'm innocent." His lawyer said he will appeal.
Deaver's daughter, Amanda, 17, sobbed as she left the courtroom with her mother. Deaver's wife, Carolyn, appeared drawn.
In the courtroom, Mrs. Deaver had put an arm around her daughter as the verdict was announced. Deaver sat down after the foreman finished, turned to his family and gave them a sad smile.
Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson scheduled sentencing for Feb. 25 and allowed Deaver to remain free on personal recognizance.
Deaver had been one of Reagan's closest advisers before leaving the White House in May, 1985, to form a lobbying business.
The Deaver-Reagan association went back to 1966 when Deaver joined Reagan's staff following his election as governor of California. Both Reagan and his wife came to look upon Deaver as almost an honorary son.
Deaver was the first White House official charged with a crime by a court-appointed independent counsel under the Ethics in Government Act.
Outside the court, Defense counsel Herbert J. Miller Jr. conceded he may have erred by not calling any witnesses on Deaver's behalf. "We didn't put on a defense because we didn't think we had to," he told reporters.
"We just went by the evidence. . . . It was quite clear," said juror Janice Hale as she left the courtroom. The jury deliberated 27 hours over four days.
Deaver was accused by independent counsel Whitney North Seymour Jr. of lying to both the subcommittee and the grand jury to fend off allegations that he was violating the ethics law in lobbying efforts for clients such as Canada, South Korea, Puerto Rico, Boeing, Trans World Airlines and Rockwell International.
A parade of current and former high Administration officials, including Secretary of State George P. Shultz, testified about being contacted by Deaver on behalf of private clients. But virtually all the witnesses said Deaver did not try to influence or pressure them during brief conversations about issues affecting his clients.
The decision by Deaver's lawyers to rest their case without calling any witnesses left them without their initial defense that his memory had been clouded by alcoholism.
It was a big fall for a man who in March, 1986, graced the cover of Time magazine as the very personification of a successful Washington power-broker.
He later said the Time cover--captioned "Influence Peddling in Washington" and illustrated by Deaver talking on the telephone in a plush limousine--was "kind of stupid."
He said Nancy Reagan took one look at it and warned him: "Mike, you've made a big mistake. I think you're going to regret it."