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Liddy Did Not Defame DNC Aide, Jury Finds

Court: The former party secretary alleged that the Watergate conspirator harmed her by tying her to a prostitution ring.

July 04, 2002|From Associated Press

BALTIMORE — A federal jury on Wednesday rejected claims from a former Democratic National Committee secretary that she was defamed by Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy.

Ida "Maxie" Wells had sued Liddy, claiming he falsely accused her of procuring prostitutes for the DNC as part of his theory that the 1972 Watergate break-in was not about gathering political intelligence.

Liddy, who arranged the break-in, has said in speeches that the operation was masterminded by Nixon White House Cunsel John W. Dean III in an effort to retrieve photographs and papers from Wells' desk that could have tied Dean's future wife, Maureen Biner, to a prostitution ring.

The Deans have denied Liddy's theory.

"I think it's very important that American citizens be able to have vigorous debate on the elements of our history," Liddy said after the verdict. "Agree or disagree, we have to have the freedom to discuss it. Otherwise, our history becomes set in concrete."

Wells was in tears. "There's no justice in the world. I just can't understand it," she said.

Her attorney, David Dorsen, said he and Wells will discuss whether to appeal.

Last year, jurors deadlocked on Wells' 1997 claim and a new trial was ordered.

After closing arguments Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Frederic Smalkin told jurors to determine the truth or falsity of what Liddy said about Wells in two speeches. One was given at James Madison University in Virginia in 1996 and the other on a Mediterranean cruise a year later.

Jurors were asked to determine whether Liddy was negligent and whether Wells suffered any harm.

They deliberated four hours before returning a verdict.

Liddy, 71, served four years and four months in prison for his role in the burglary. He refused to testify on his behalf and kept quiet about what he knew until his autobiography was published in 1980.

Earlier this week, Liddy had testified that he never alleged Wells was directly involved with the call-girl ring, only that her desk was the target of the break-in.

"The burglars had a map leading them to that desk, and they had a key for that desk," Liddy said Wednesday.

Jury foreman Stuart Friedrich Finks said he focused on Liddy's source of information about the prostitution ring theory--Phillip Macklin Bailley, a disbarred attorney with a history of drug and mental problems.

Finks noted that no one besides Bailley has ever said that the DNC was linked to the call-girl ring.

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