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2 of 6 Charges Dropped From Nofziger Lobbying Case

December 23, 1987|DOUGLAS JEHL | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — An independent prosecutor on Tuesday dropped two of six charges against Lyn Nofziger, the former Reagan Administration official accused of illegal contacts with government officials on behalf of Wedtech Corp. and other companies.

The dropped counts, both related to Wedtech, charged that Nofziger violated a lifetime ban on lobbying officials on matters in which he had been "personally and substantially" involved while in government work.

The action came at a pretrial hearing on the Nofziger case, which is scheduled for trial Jan. 11.

Speaking to reporters afterward, independent counsel James C. McKay said that the charges were "viable" but had been dropped "to simplify our case." "It will shorten the case a lot," McKay said.

Nofziger and Robert Plotkin, his attorney, said the move demonstrated that the government did not have a case.

Lack of Proof Claimed

"Why in the world would someone bring the indictment and then, three weeks before trial, drop it, unless they couldn't prove it?" Plotkin said. "To me, that's irresponsible."

"They couldn't make me look venal, so they just go for the technicalities," Nofziger said. He added that the remaining charges are "horse manure" and said he is confident he will be exonerated.

Nofziger, indicted last July, is the only former Reagan Administration official to have been charged in the scandal surrounding Wedtech, the New York military contractor accused of buying influence to obtain government work. Several federal and New York officials have been implicated in wrongdoing, and an independent counsel is examining Wedtech evidence in a probe of Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III.

The four charges Nofziger still faces are that he violated a provision of the federal ethics law that bars federal officials from lobbying their immediate former colleagues on any matter for 12 months after they leave the government. Nofziger, formerly White House director of political affairs and a longtime aide to Reagan, is accused of making such lobbying contacts on behalf of clients soon after he left the Administration in January, 1982.

Dropped Counts Told

The two dropped charges relating to the law's broader, lifetime ban were that Nofziger contacted Secretary of the Army John Marsh Jr. and Small Business Administration chief James C. Sanders on behalf of Wedtech, which was bidding for a defense contract. The indictment had charged that while he was in the White House, Nofziger "participated personally and substantially in (Wedtech matters) through decision, approval, recommendation (and) the rendering of advice."

Defense attorney Plotkin said that the dropping of the charges suggested that the government had been unable to prove Nofziger participated in Wedtech matters while in the White House.

Of the four charges that remain two relate to Wedtech, but involve lobbying activities directed at former White House colleagues.

On behalf of Wedtech, Nofziger is alleged to have illegally lobbied in 1982 both Meese, when Meese was White House counselor, and Meese's deputy at the time, James E. Jenkins. Nofziger allegedly promoted Wedtech's request for a $31-million contract to manufacture small engines for the Army.

Nofziger is also alleged to have illegally lobbied White House officials for another defense contractor, Fairchild Industries Inc. of Chantilly, Va., to promote funds for Fairchild to produce more A-10 attack aircraft for the Air Force.

Seamen's Union Named

In the last remaining count, Nofziger is charged with making an illegal approach to Jenkins on behalf of the National Marine Engineers Beneficial Assn., in an attempt to persuade the White House to expand use of civilian seamen on government ships.

If convicted on the four counts, Nofziger could get a maximum punishment of eight years in prison and $40,000 in fines.

Also charged in the case is Mark A. Bragg, Nofziger's partner in a public relations company, who is alleged to have aided and abetted one of the illegal contacts.

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