U.S. Attorney's Background Check Reveals Domestic Violence
Jan. 20, 1990
MIAMI (AP) _ An FBI background check of Acting U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen revealed allegations of domestic violence and problems with former employers, The Miami Herald reported Friday.
The Justice Department sent Lehtinen's background investigation on to the White House two weeks ago, and President Bush now must send his name to the Judiciary Committee for his long-delayed confirmation.
The FBI investigation uncovered that while Lehtinen's first marriage was ending between 1982 and 1983, he smashed furniture in their home and once shoved his wife out of the house, the Herald said.
Lehtinen denied the allegations to the newspaper.
''This article and many others will make a lot of allegations,'' his spokeswoman, Diane Cossin, said Friday. ''Embroidery and speculation are not worthy of comment.''
But Lehtinen's first wife, Donna Stevenson, confirmed the information in the Herald report.
''Dexter has a temper. I do know he throws things and he yells,'' Ms. Stevenson told WPLG-TV in Miami on Friday.
Ms. Stevenson, however, denied Lehtinen ever hit her.
Lehtinen's temper has been mentioned as a possible liability in the prosecution of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, and he removed himself from the case Saturday amid speculation that Washington was unsure if he could successfully try the case, the Herald said.
During a two-year romantic relationship with his former legislative aide, Dolores Zell, the FBI report said Lehtinen threw things at Zell, shook her and once sprained her arm when he pushed her to the floor. Zell also confirmed the FBI reports to WPLG.
The FBI investigation is made up of raw data obtained from a variety of sources and no judgment is made on the credibility of the reports.
The Herald said Lehtinen neglected to list one of his former employers on his official resume, and that he would not confirm whether the omission was made on the employment history he gave to the Justice Department.
Lehtinen was taken off the payroll of Shutts and Bowen, a prominent Miami law firm, in 1982 because he rarely showed up for work even though he continued to draw paychecks, the Herald said.
On Thursday, he confirmed that he worked for the firm and that the firm's managers were unhappy with the amount of work he did. He said he told the FBI ''everything I know of,'' but added that he ''didn't type those forms.''
Lehtinen, who graduated first in his class from Stanford Law School in 1974, was appointed as acting U.S. Attorney by then-Attorney General Edwin Meese in June 1988, succeeding Leon Kellner. The FBI investigation was opened the same day, Lehtinen said.
His appointment was opposed by many prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's office, most of who favored the former No. 2 man in the department, Richard Gregorie, who led the indictment of Noriega.