North Trial Judge Faces Decision on Juror Issue
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The judge in Oliver North’s Iran-Contra case faces a decision remarkably similar to one he made a decade ago in a case where a juror withheld significant information from the court.
U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday focusing on North trial juror Tara Leigh King’s failure to disclose that four of her brothers and sisters had been involved with the courts.
In a 1978 city corruption case, Gesell ordered a new trial for a top mayoral aide and parking lot magnate after it was disclosed that a juror had a checking account at a bank founded by the magnate, Dominic Antonelli. Antonelli and his co-defendant were acquitted in the retrial.
The juror also had failed to tell defense lawyers that her father worked for Antonelli’s firm and had been fired from the company. The juror said she hadn’t known of his employment at Antonelli’s firm, although she acknowledged knowing her father was employed by another parking company in town.
In the North case, King responded negatively on a pre-trial questionnaire when asked whether she or any members of her immediate family had ever been involved in a court proceeding or in an investigation. One brother had pleaded guilty to armed robbery.
Gesell ordered North’s lawyers, who raised the allegations of juror misconduct against King, to prepare a detailed account of when they learned of the information.
The prosecution says that under federal court rulings a defendant may not learn of alleged juror misconduct during a trial, ″gamble on a favorable verdict by remaining silent,″ and then complain in a post-trial motion.
North was convicted May 4 of aiding and abetting an obstruction of Congress, destroying government documents and accepting a $13,800 home security system as an illegal gratuity from Richard Secord. North had enlisted Secord to secretly run arms to the Contras.
North’s sentencing has been postponed until July 5 pending a decision on the matter.
In the 1978 case before Gesell, Antonelli and Joseph P. Yeldell, an aide to then-Washington Mayor Walter E. Washington, had been convicted of conspiring to arrange a government lease of a building from a partnership controlled by Antonelli.
Antonelli and Yeldell, now the director of the city’s office of emergency preparedness, were found innocent of bribery and conspiracy in their second trial before a federal court jury in Philadelphia. Gesell presided in that trial as well.
Antonelli was represented by Edward Bennett Williams of the firm Williams & Connolly, the same law firm representing North.