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Holder Opposes Paying Acquitted Defendants: Cites Trials of Gotti, Hinckley, DeLorean

By Seper, Jerry | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 24, 1997 | Go to article overview

Holder Opposes Paying Acquitted Defendants: Cites Trials of Gotti, Hinckley, DeLorean


Seper, Jerry, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


A House-passed bill to pay the legal fees of acquitted defendants will "handcuff prosecutors" and could cost taxpayers "a fortune in high-stakes payoffs to America's most wanted," Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said yesterday.

"If this bill becomes law, people like John Gotti, who beat the rap at his first trials, and John Hinckley and John DeLorean, who were also acquitted, could wind up with big taxpayer checks," Mr. Holder said during the Justice Department's weekly press briefing.

"Plea bargains that save time and put criminals behind bars could become a thing of the past. Prosecutors would be forced to make a decision with one eye on their office budget, instead of keeping both eyes on the pursuit of justice," he said. "And whenever they couldn't get a conviction, prosecutors would have to spend time fighting lawsuits instead of fighting criminals."

Mr. Holder, former U.S. attorney in the District, said the bill was passed without a single hearing and that it bars the creation of any special appropriation to fund it, so awards would have to come from the prosecutor's budget.

Gotti is a New York crime boss acquitted in two racketeering trials but later convicted on murder charges in a third trial and sentenced to life in prison. Hinckley was found insane rather than guilty in the shooting of President Reagan and was committed to a mental hospital. Mr. DeLorean was acquitted on charges of plotting to finance cocaine and heroin sales in the United States, even though the government had videotapes of him setting up the deals with undercover agents.

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