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Jury Convicts Deaver of Three Perjury Counts : Ex-White House Aide Faces Up to 15 Years in Prison, Plus Fines

December 17, 1987|ROBERT L. JACKSON | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Former White House aide Michael K. Deaver was convicted Wednesday of three counts of perjury for giving false testimony to a congressional subcommittee and a federal grand jury last year about his Washington lobbying activities.

At the same time, the jury in the court of U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson acquitted Deaver, 49, of two other perjury counts. Sentencing was set for Feb. 25, with Deaver facing a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison and $22,000 in fines.

Deaver, once a close confidant of President Reagan and his wife, Nancy, stood with his head slightly bowed as jury foreman Barrington B. Bell, a government supply clerk, announced the verdict. Deaver's wife, Carolyn, and daughter, Amanda, 17, wept softly and embraced each other.

'Very Disappointed'

A grim-faced but composed Deaver later told reporters outside the courthouse: "I'm obviously very disappointed . . . but I know in my heart that I'm innocent.

"This has been a long ordeal for my family," he added. "And I'm grateful for all the strength and support I've been given by so many people around this country and my friends."

Herbert J. Miller Jr., Deaver's chief attorney, said he would appeal the verdict.

In a statement released by the White House, President Reagan said that he and the First Lady were "sorry to learn of the jury's decision" on his former deputy chief of staff.

"He has been a longtime friend and served with dedication," the President said. "Beyond that, I cannot comment because the decision is likely to be appealed through the court system."

Deaver served Reagan for nearly 20 years, starting with his first term as California's governor.

Miller refused to specify what grounds he would cite in his appeal, saying that they "will be spelled out in my filing."

Separately, Deaver's lawyers have lodged a constitutional challenge to the 1978 Ethics in Government Act, under which Deaver's prosecutor was appointed. That challenge, which is pending in a circuit court, also could result in the conviction's being set aside.

Deaver was the first current or former government official to be prosecuted by an independent counsel appointed under the post-Watergate ethics law.

Nofziger Trial Pending

Lyn Nofziger, also a former Reagan aide, was indicted on conflict-of-interest charges under the law in July and is scheduled to go on trial next month. Other former officials have been cleared by independent counsel investigations or are the subject of investigations that are still in progress, such as the principal figures in the Iran-Contra scandal.

In light of Deaver's conviction on three counts, Miller acknowledged to reporters that he may have erred by abruptly resting the defense's case without calling any witnesses after the prosecution had presented evidence for six weeks and called 52 witnesses.

"We didn't put on a defense because we didn't think we had to," said Miller, who had declared that the prosecution's case was so flawed it was unworthy of rebuttal. "The jury verdict suggests I may have made a mistake."

Deaver, who left government service in May, 1985, to establish a Washington lobbying firm, was convicted of falsely denying to a congressional investigating subcommittee that he had helped arrange a personal visit with Reagan for a South Korean trade envoy. At the time of the October, 1985, visit, Deaver was negotiating a lobbying contract with the Korean government.

Grand Jury Testimony

He was also convicted of falsely telling a grand jury that he could not recall contacting any government officials on behalf of Trans World Airlines, another of his clients, or certain Administration officials on behalf of a business client who was seeking to preserve a federal tax break for firms with investments in Puerto Rico.

Deaver was cleared of charges that he lied to the subcommittee about White House contacts on behalf of the Boeing Co., Phillip Morris Inc. and several other clients; and to the grand jury about his involvement in Canadian acid rain policy while he was still on the White House staff.

Bell and two other members of the jury, which deliberated for 27 hours over four days, said in interviews that they had pored over the evidence to sort out which counts the government had proved and which it had not.

"We just went by the evidence, and it was quite clear," said juror Janice Mae Hale, a supermarket food service manager. Added Carole L. Birckhead, a supervisor for the Army Corps of Engineers: "We tried to be very careful, very deliberate and very hard-working."

Bell called the deliberations "intense, and I mean intense."

Case Built on Perjury Issue

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