WASHINGTON — A jury on Monday cleared former Atty. Gen. Griffin B. Bell in a civil suit that charged him with libeling a former E. F. Hutton brokerage manager in a 1985 report about the company's check-kiting practices.
The U.S. District Court panel found that Bell, who had been hired by Hutton to investigate the scheme after the company pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud charges, had not defamed John Pearce.
Pearce, who managed Hutton branches in Bethesda, Md., and in St. Louis, was among six Hutton officials blamed in Bell's report for the elaborate overdrafting scheme.
Bell, who headed the Justice Department during the Jimmy Carter Administration, conducted a three-month investigation and exonerated top Hutton executives of any wrongdoing.
Pearce, now a businessman in Sarasota, Fla., contended in the lawsuit that Bell had ignored evidence that he and other branch managers named in the report were only acting under instructions from top management.