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Prosecutors Close Out Poindexter Case, Defense To Play Reagan Tape

March 20, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. District Judge Harold Greene denied John Poindexter’s motion for acquittal Tuesday after the prosecution closed out its case against the man who was once President Reagan’s national security adviser.

Poindexter’s lawyers said they would begin playing seven hours of videotaped testimony from Reagan on Wednesday in an effort to bolster their client’s defense. Poindexter is accused of obstructing and lying to Congress to cover up the Iran-Contra affair.

Greene said evidence garnered from 10 witnesses called by the prosecution in its 7 1/2 -day presentation against Poindexter suggests he adopted false information ″designed to obstruct Congress.″

Poindexter ″sent Oliver North to meet with″ the House intelligence committee, where North lied by denying he was assisting the Contras militarily, the judge said in rejecting the motion for a acquittal.

There is evidence that the ″defendant destroyed″ a presidential finding as well as ″5,000 ... notes″ in his computer on the Iran initiative, said Greene.

In addition, the judge said, the jury has heard evidence that ″Oliver North got permission from Admiral Poindexter to check out and cover up″ five memos showing North’s military assistance to the Contras.

Poindexter attorney Richard Beckler told Greene there is no evidence Congress had inquiries pending at the time Poindexter supplied information on the Contras and a November 1985 shipment of Hawk missiles.

In urging acquittal, Beckler said Poindexter’s destruction of a presidential document on the Iran initiative is ″the epicenter″ of the government’s case. Yet the destruction of the document is never mentioned in the indictment, said Beckler.

Greene replied that it isn’t necessary for the document, a presidential finding, to be mentioned in the indictment.

Poindexter is accused of covering up the U.S. role in the 1985 missile shipment and North’s secret Contra resupply operation. He is charged with conspiracy, two counts of obstructing Congress and two counts of making false statements.

Iran-Contra prosecutor Dan Webb said there is ″overwhelming evidence″ to proceed with the five criminal charges against Poindexter.

″People like Admiral Poindexter who engage in conspiracies ordinarily don’t speak out, ... don’t discuss what they are doing,″ said Webb. He asserted that a trail of documents shows that Poindexter conspired, obstructed Congress and made false statements.

The prosecution’s final witness, Senate staff member Eric Newsom, testified that ″it did seem strange″ how little Poindexter said he knew about the missile shipment when questioned a year afterward by members of Congress.

The defense’s first witness, former White House lawyer Dean McGrath, said on cross-examination that he ″wouldn’t have cleared″ letters signed by Poindexter if he had known they were false.

The letters embraced statements made the previous year by Robert McFarlane denying that North was raising money for or assisting the Contras militarily.

″You would have ... stopped″ the letters ultimately signed by Poindexter if they were false? asked prosecutor Louise Radin.

″I would have tried to,″ replied McGrath.

The government’s primary witness was North, who testified with evident reluctance for 3 1/2 days against his former boss.

Last week, North testified that he had watched Poindexter destroy the presidential finding which ratified the missile shipment.

In highlights of the government’s case against Poindexter:

-Poindexter told the FBI three days after resigning his White House post as the Iran-Contra affair was becoming public in November 1986 - and after the meeting with senators that figured in Tuesday’s testimony - that he had ″no working knowledge″ of early Iran arms shipments and ″no direct knowledge″ that profits had been diverted to the Contras, FBI agent Ellen Glasser testified.

-Rep. Lee Hamilton testified Monday that Poindexter failed to tell the House Intelligence Committee about the Reagan finding relating to the missile shipment and then-CIA Director William Casey told the committee the document didn’t exist. Casey sent Poindexter a copy of the finding a year before the CIA director denied its existence, according to documents introduced at Poindexter’s trial.

-North testified he was reluctant to go to an Aug. 6, 1986, meeting to answer lawmakers’ questions, but that Poindexter sent him anyway, telling his aide that ″you can handle it″ or ″you can take care of it.″ North lied at the meeting by denying he was assisting the Contras militarily. North testified the decision to lie was his own.

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