MIAMI — A federal magistrate recommended jail for a former mercenary who refused to answer questions in a $24-million suit that claims former CIA officials and Contra leaders ran a guns-for-drugs smuggling ring.
Sam Hall has refused to answer questions during depositions about who trained and paid him in Nicaragua. The suit is set for trial beginning June 27.
Hall, who was kicked out of Nicaragua after officials there said he had been caught spying for the Contras, appeared Wednesday without his attorney before U.S. Magistrate William Turnoff to answer contempt charges.
"I know what's facing me," Hall said. "But it has to do with principle."
He said he would not answer questions that might embarrass the anti-communist crusader and retired Army Maj. Gen. John K. Singlaub, his boss when he was in Nicaragua, although he said their activities were not illegal.
The suit was filed by journalist Tony Avirgan, who was injured in a 1984 bombing in Nicaragua that he blames on the alleged conspirators. He and his wife, Martha Honey, are represented by the Washington-based Christic Institute.
Turnoff said he respects Hall's position but that he must answer.
"There really is no alternative for me but to make a recommendation that you are held in civil contempt," Turnoff said. U.S. District Judge James King, presiding judge in the suit, will make the final decision.
The damage and racketeering suit charges that members of a right-wing terror network tracing back to 1959 participated in assassination plots, gun running and drug trafficking.
Defendants include Singlaub; Theodore G. Shackley, former deputy director of operations for the CIA; Contra director Adolfo Calero; Medellin Cartel leaders Pablo Escobar Gaviria and Jorge Ochoa Vasquez; Iran-Contra figures Richard V. Secord, Robert W. Owen and Albert A. Hakim, and others.
The suit was filed in May, 1986, six months before the Iran-Contra affair became public. Many of those the suit brought to light have since been indicted or appeared before congressional committees investigating the Contra case.