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William Dougherty, 77; Ex-Marine, Attorney for 'Falcon' in Spy Case


William A. Dougherty, a Villa Park attorney who gained public attention for his defense of Christopher Boyce, the "Falcon" of the spy duo immortalized in the book and film "The Falcon and the Snowman," has died. He was 77.

Dougherty, who was known as a lively curmudgeon in Orange County Republican political circles, died Wednesday at his home in the upscale community east of Anaheim. He had prostate cancer and fell into a coma on Christmas Day.

A specialist in federal court cases, Dougherty took on Boyce's defense in the 1970s. Boyce was one of two young men from well-to-do Palos Verdes Peninsula families convicted of selling government secrets to the Soviet Union through its embassy in Mexico City.

Boyce had obtained the information through his high-security job at TRW, which had numerous top-secret government contracts.

"One of the nicest young men you'd ever meet," Dougherty said of Boyce, who got the nickname "the Falcon" because of his love of falconry. Boyce was portrayed in the 1985 motion picture by actor Timothy Hutton.

Dougherty also became known around California in the 1970s for trying to move the Republican Party in Orange County away from the dominant conservatism represented by such politicians as former congressmen Robert K. Dornan and John Schmitz. Though he never was successful in winning political office himself, Dougherty was considered a leader among the moderate or liberal wing of the local GOP.

"I always called myself a Dougherty Republican," said local defense attorney H. Dean Steward, a longtime ally of Dougherty's within the party. "There weren't that many of us, but we were dedicated to moving the party back where it should be."

Dougherty angered many fellow Republicans in 1996 when he supported Democrat Loretta Sanchez after she successfully defeated Dornan. In her literature, Dougherty called Dornan a "war wimp." It cost Dougherty his seat on the county's Republican Central Committee, but after he filed a lawsuit against the party, he eventually was reinstated.

A highly decorated Marine fighter pilot during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, Dougherty retired as a reserve colonel in 1976. He founded the November 10th Assn., a local group of ex-Marines that holds an annual dinner to honor the corps' inception, and was active in the Marine Foundation, a fund-raising group.

Dougherty also helped out each year with the "Devil Pups," a two-week training session at Camp Pendleton for high school students interested in becoming Marines.

"He was the Marine's Marine," said Superior Court Judge William M. Monroe, a longtime friend who once served under Dougherty's command in the reserves. "There wasn't anything Bill wouldn't do to promote the Marine Corps."

In November, Dougherty wore his formal Marine uniform to the annual November 10th Assn. dinner, joking that he never could have fit into it had he not lost so much weight in his fight against cancer.

Dougherty received his law degree from Cornell University in New York in 1955. He served as an assistant U.S. attorney for three years, and later worked for U.S. Sen. Kenneth Keating of New York.

Dougherty is survived by his wife, Sharlee; two daughters, Robyn and Shannon; and a son, William.

He requested no funeral service or memorial. The family suggests donations to the William A. Dougherty Scholarship Fund at Kents Hill School in Maine. The address is P.O. Box 257, Route 17, Kents Hill, ME 04349-0257.

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