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Quayle Charges Found to Lack Corroboration : Drugs: The Times probed allegations similar to those in Doonesbury cartoons, could not substantiate them.

November 07, 1991|DOUGLAS FRANTZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kimberlin was released from detention on Nov. 5 but was placed in detention again on Nov. 7 after prison authorities discovered that he planned to telephone a group of reporters in Washington, according to court records.

Kimberlin has filed a lawsuit in federal court here against the Bureau of Prisons and various officials for violating his First Amendment rights in halting the press conference and placing him in detention, which he says was done to silence him.

The order to cancel the press conference and place Kimberlin in detention was issued by Michael Quinlan, the director of the Bureau of Prisons in Washington, according to documents in the suit. Other documents show that Quayle campaign officials were aware of Kimberlin's charges and were concerned about the press conference in the closing days of the presidential race.

However, there is no indication in the documents that campaign officials suggested canceling the press conference. A former top Justice Department official told The Times in an interview earlier this year that, although he had spoken with Quinlan about the issue, the prisons director took the action independently.

Early last summer, allegations similar to those in the Doonesbury strip concerning the DEA file were brought to The Times by a free-lance journalist. As part of that inquiry, reporters viewed a part of what appeared to be a DEA file regarding allegations that Quayle had purchased cocaine in 1982.

Such files contain raw, unevaluated data. As one DEA official explained last June, anyone can call in and make a claim against someone and the information will go into a DEA file.

According to the free-lance journalist, the allegation against Quayle had been made to an assistant U.S. attorney in Indianapolis. The prosecutor had then asked an official in the criminal division of the Justice Department in Washington for permission to have an undercover agent attempt to sell cocaine to Quayle. The journalist did not provide the name of the assistant U.S. attorney but said that he was still in government and would not talk about the matter.

In an interview, the criminal division official, who is now in private practice, showed a Times reporter a journal in which he had noted a call on Sept. 22, 1982, from an assistant U.S. attorney in Indianapolis who wanted to try to sell drugs to Quayle. The former official said that he relayed the request "upstairs" because he regarded it as too sensitive to handle himself.

Such an operation would have been a departure from department practice at the time because it would have involved selling drugs to make an arrest. Normal procedure was to buy drugs and arrest the seller.

All four present or former Justice Department officials who logically would have handled such a request were interviewed by a reporter and said that they had no recollection of any such request involving Quayle.

Reporters attempted also to find DEA clerks who were allegedly disciplined for having read the Quayle file while "window shopping" through files in the agency's computer. The Times was unable to find anyone who had been disciplined or knew of anyone who had.

The free-lance journalist said that Quayle's name had surfaced in a federal inquiry into drug use on Capitol Hill in the early 1980s. One of the agents involved in that investigation said in an interview that the charges were similar to the Indianapolis allegations and that they were found not to be true.

Last summer, The Times was unable to obtain the name of the drug dealer whose claim to have sold cocaine to Quayle apparently generated the DEA file. The free-lance journalist acknowledged at the time that the dealer had failed a lie detector test administered for "60 Minutes."

In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Kimberlin maintained again that he had sold marijuana to Quayle. He said he had planned to air allegations about the DEA file at his 1988 press conference, but he said he had no idea whether the cocaine charge was true. He claims his only motivation has been to "get the truth out."

Under the most lenient terms, Kimberlin could have been paroled from prison nearly five years ago with permission from the parole board. However, he has been denied early parole and is not scheduled for release under normal regulations until 1994.

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