Abscam-Convicted Senator Says He’s Unbowed, Determined To Prove His Innocence
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Former Sen. Harrison A. Williams, due to be released this week after two years in prison for his Abscam conviction, vows to establish his innocence and says he feels ″not defeated or bowed or bitter, just stronger.″
The 65-year-old Democrat, former chairman of the Senate’s Labor and Human Resources Committee, also said in an interview Friday that his incarceration had exposed him to flaws in the judicial system that he intended to write about.
Once considered New Jersey’s ″senator for life,″ Williams said he felt gratified by finding jobs for at least six convicts at the Newark halfway house where he has been held since Nov. 4.
Williams is scheduled to be released Friday.
When he began his three-year sentence at a minimum-security federal prison Jan. 19, 1984, Williams became the first U.S. senator in 80 years to be jailed. He served four terms in the Senate before resigning in 1982.
Williams claims that while he was in prison, new evidence surfaced that would exonerate him in the retrial he is seeking on his bribery and conspiracy convictions.
His conviction in the Abscam probe, in which FBI agents posed as wealthy Arab sheiks seeking influence in Congress, was ″contrived″ and politically motivated entrapment, he said.
″The whole thing was manufactured, an effort to get me to look like a criminal and I’m not. I want to prove that I’m not,″ said Williams.
He was convicted in 1981 of agreeing to take a hidden interest in a Virginia titanium mine and a $100 million loan in return for a promise to try to get government contracts for the mine.
Six congressmen and 13 other people were convicted in the Abscam operation.
Williams’ attorney, Robert J. Flynn, petitioned the full 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October to dismiss Williams’ conviction on the grounds of government misconduct and to order a new trial.
Flynn said he expected a decision soon.
″I want to see all the facts before the court,″ said Williams. ″The whole trial system is supposed to bring forth the truth. If you can’t get the truth into a court of law, you’re in Nazi Germany or Red Russia.″
The new information, he said, would prove that a videotape of his 1980 meeting in a New York hotel with undercover agents was edited for the trial to delete a scene in which he was led to a drawer containing $40,000 and slammed it shut.
He contends that an FBI agent lied when he told the jury the tape was not edited and that the government withheld audio tapes and interviews with federal investigators.
Williams also complained that the judge presiding over his trial refused to admit evidence of government misconduct, whereas the California judge hearing the cocaine conspiracy trial of former automaker John Z. De Lorean did.
De Lorean was acquitted in 1984 of charges he conspired to sell $24 million worth of cocaine to save his failing car company.
Williams said a judicial standard needs to be set on what constitutes entrapment, which was also De Lorean’s defense.
″This whole experience, I’ve discovered, it doesn’t destroy you,″ said Williams. ″I feel not defeated or bowed or bitter, just stronger.″