LaRouche Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., political extremist and perennial presidential candidate, was sentenced today to 15 years in prison for scheming to defraud federal tax collectors and deliberately failing to repay more than $30 million in loans from his political supporters.
U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. also sentenced chief LaRouche fundraiser William Wertz to five years in prison and an $11,000 fine, and gave LaRouche legal coordinator Edward Spannaus a five-year term and a $10,000 fine.
At the same time, governmnent prosecutors in Boston dropped related charges against LaRouche and three of his associates. Charges against three other defendants who are fugitives were maintained. That case ended in a mistrial last May and had been scheduled for retrial on Feb. 22.
In a document filed in U.S. District Court in Boston today, the prosecutors said that, with the conviction of LaRouche and his associates in Alexandria last month, the law enforcement interests of the United States had been served ″from the point of view of both deterrence and punishment.″
In the federal courthouse in Alexandria, fundraisers Michael Billington and Dennis Small received three-year prison terms and fines of $8,000 each. Fundraisers Paul Greenberg and Joyce Rubenstein were given three-year terms and $6,000 in fines each.
LaRouche attorney Odin Anderson of Boston said all seven defendants would appeal. He called LaRouche a prominent political figure and said his ″many powerful enemies have had their day.″
U.S. Attorney Henry Hudson called the sentences ″a very satisfying culmination to a very long journey,″ but added:
″This will never repay all those victims who have been swindled out of millions of dollars over the years. I feel sorry for those people.″
Bryan told LaRouche, who stood facing the judge with arms folded in front of him, that he had been convicted of ″a serious crime″ and said he rejected LaRouche’s belief ″that the end justifies the means as resorted to in this case.″
Bryan refused to grant bail to the three main defendants pending appeals.
The judge also rejected as ″errant nonsense″ the defendants’ claims that their prosecution by the government was politically motivated. He said the idea that LaRouche’s organization was of sufficient threat to warrant such a prosecution ″just defies human experience.″
LaRouche’s sentence was considerably less than the maximum penalty on 13 counts of tax and mail fraud conspiracy. The maximum would be 65 years in prison and fines totaling $3.25 million.
Before he was sentenced, LaRouche told the judge that his case ″already has done great damage to the United States″ and that ″it is time for this evil and reckless prosecution to be brought to a halt before further damage is done.″
U.S. Attorney Kent Robinson responded that ″this is not a political case, this was a case of theft.″
Bryan said he was concerned that the defendants never conceded they had done anything wrong, despite their convictions.
But Spannaus said:
″Remorse should be felt by those who perverted our judicial system for political purposes and trampled on the Constitution.″
Outside the federal courthouse in this Washington suburb, about 60 LaRouche supporters sang, waved American flags and paraded with bedsheet banners reading ″Pardon LaRouche - Kill Satan″ and ″Stop KGB Frame Up-Murder of LaRouche.″ A demonstrator wearing a large mask of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and carrying a Soviet flag gestured on the sidelines as the pickets paraded on both sides of the street in front of the courthouse.
A federal trial jury in Alexandria convicted LaRouche and the six associates on Dec. 16 of mail fraud and conspiracy for raising more then $30 million in loans from political supporters without any intention of repaying them. One elderly woman testified she had lost nearly $113,000 in life savings.
LaRouche also was convicted of scheming to defraud the Internal Revenue Service by having all his personal expenses paid by various corporations he controls and claiming he had no taxable income.
LaRouche has not filed federal income tax returns for any year since 1978, government prosecutors said.
It was the first time in LaRouche’s controversial political career that he has been convicted of criminal charges. LaRouche, 66, has run for president in the last three elections as a Democrat or an independent candidate espousing unorthodox conspiracy theories on world issues.
Immediately after his conviction in Alexandria, LaRouche told reporters he was the innocent victim of a frame-up by Soviet sympathizers in the State and Justice departments. He predicted he would be killed if sent to prison.
Bryan released LaRouche and the six other defendants on their personal recognizance. Since his conviction, aides said, LaRouche has visited West Germany, home of his wife, Helga, and attended a ″human rights tribunal″ in Rome.
LaRouche spokeswoman Dana Scanlon said the political maverick’s supporters planned to hold a round-the-clock vigil in Lafayette Park, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, until LaRouche is released from federal prison. She said demonstrations also were planned outside the federal courthouse in this Washington suburb.
Elsewhere, jury selection was under way in Loudoun County Circuit Court in Leesburg, Va., where LaRouche headquarters are based, in a Virginia state trial of LaRouche fund-raiser Rochelle Ascher on 12 counts of securities fraud.
Ms. Ascher is the first of 16 LaRouche associates and five organizations facing separate trials on state securities fraud charges. LaRouche himself is not a defendant in the Leesburg case.