Clinton Friend Trie Faces Charges
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Yah Lin ``Charlie″ Trie, a longtime friend of President Clinton accused of funneling illegal contributions to Democrats, goes on trial here Monday on a charge that he hid documents from a Senate investigation into political fund raising.
Trie, a former Little Rock restaurateur, is accused of obstructing justice by ordering an employee to destroy documents subpoenaed in 1997 by a federal grand jury and by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
He could spend time in a federal prison if convicted, but faces even stiffer penalties if convicted of charges in Washington that he made and arranged illegal contributions to the Democratic National Committee.
Trie is a central figure in the controversy over foreign-linked campaign donations to Democrats. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee is investigating possible illegal campaign fund raising in the 1996 election.
In Washington, Trie is accused of making illegal contributions to buy access to Clinton and other top officials for himself and people like Chinese arms dealer Wang Jun, an adviser to the Chinese government whose company, Poly Technologies, has been implicated in the smuggling of arms into the United States.
After Wang’s February 1996 visit to the White House for coffee with Clinton was disclosed, the president acknowledged it was inappropriate.
Johnny Chung, another Clinton donor, has pleaded guilty to making $20,000 in illegal contributions to Democrats, including the Clinton-Gore campaign. He told the House Government Reform Committee that a Chinese banker told him that Trie had asked for $1 million from the Chinese government for political donations.
The obstruction charge against Trie in Arkansas stems from testimony from longtime Trie employee Dia Maria Mapili that he ordered her to get rid of documents subpoenaed in 1997 by a federal grand jury and by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
Trie has claimed that Justice Department leaks have hurt his chances for a fair trial. He suffered two legal setbacks last week when U.S. District Judge George Howard Jr. ordered a former Trie employee to testify at the trial and also ruled that evidence seized at Trie’s local residence would be admissible.
His lawyers had discussed seeking a delay, concerned that pretrial publicity might hurt his chances of getting a fair trial.
``You want to find 12 fair-minded people who don’t have an opinion one way or the other through news coverage, and anytime you have pretrial press coverage it’s a concern,″ said Sam Heuer, Trie’s Arkansas attorney. ``But he’s ready to go. He’s looking forward to hopefully being exonerated.″