Magazine article Insight on the News

Last Shot Fired in Watergate Legal Skirmish May Reveal the Concealed Motivation for the Break-In

Magazine article Insight on the News

Last Shot Fired in Watergate Legal Skirmish May Reveal the Concealed Motivation for the Break-In

Article excerpt

On Feb. 1, a Baltimore jury gave radio talk-show host G. Gordon Liddy a victory over Maxie Wells -- regarded by some as a surrogate for former White House counsel John Dean -- who was expected to testify but did not show. Seven of the nine jurors agreed that Liddy had not libeled Wells. Judge J. Frederick Motz declared a mistrial even though the jurors had deliberated for only eight hours. After two hours of arguments, he dismissed the case, saying, "Having carefully considered all of the evidence, I do not believe a reasonable jury could find Mr. Liddy was negligent in making the statements at issue in this case."

Wells sued over statements Liddy made in two speeches taped by Dean's attorney, who later became hers. Liddy had said that the Watergate burglars were sent into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters to find photos of call girls believed to be kept in Wells' desk to show to visitors who were looking for a date. Wells, a secretary at the time, denied that she kept such photos in her desk and that she had any connection with prostitution. She sought damages of $5.1 million.

Ten years ago, Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, a best-seller by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, challenged the accepted version of the Watergate story. They claimed they had found the answer to this puzzling question: Why did the Nixon re-election campaign send a burglary team into the Democratic National Committee headquarters? Liddy, an employee of the Committee to Re-elect the President at the time, was one of those directing the operation.

On the 20th anniversary of Watergate, Liddy said he didn't know the real reason for the break-in until he read Silent Coup. He said that Dean had ordered an earlier break-in to plant a bug on a phone that was used to arrange dates with call girls for visiting Democratic dignitaries. A second break-in was ordered after an address book giving the names of the girls being called fell into the hands of the police. Liddy claimed one of the names was Maureen Biner and that she was given the code name "Clout" because she was Dean's girlfriend.

Silent Coup claimed that relationship explained Dean's keen interest in what might be found in the offices. One of the men who was caught, Rolando Martinez, an active CIA agent, was found to have a key to a desk where it was thought the photos of the call girls might be found. …

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