Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Magistrate Disqualifies Self; General Dynamics Pleas Set / Cites Conflict of Interest

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Magistrate Disqualifies Self; General Dynamics Pleas Set / Cites Conflict of Interest

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Citing conflicts of interest, a U.S. magistrate Monday disqualified himself from the case of NASA chief James Beggs and three General Dynamics executives accused of plotting to hide cost overruns on the Sgt. York anti-aircraft gun.

Magistrate Volney Brown Jr. said he couldn't handle the case because he and his wife own ""several shares'' in General Dynamics Corp. He didn't give a precise figure.

U.S. Magistrate Venetta S. Tassopulos presided in his place at an initial court appearance for the four defendants. She approved $5,000 bail for each and set a plea hearing to complete the arraignment later in the day before U.S. District Judge Ferdinand F. Fernandez. The bond includes no travel restrictions.

If convicted, the four men face up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each count. The corporation could be fined up to $10,000 per count.

The seven-count indictment handed down Dec. 2 renewed a public furor over defense spending and caused Beggs, a former General Dynamics executive, to take a leave of absence from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration until the matter is resolved.

Also as a result, the Pentagon barred General Dynamics from obtaining any new government contracts indefinitely, although the Navy later relented and agreed to permit the company to bid on nuclear-submarine work.

It was the second time this year that St. Louis-based General Dynamics was barred from getting new defense contracts. A suspension over disputed contracting practices began in May and lasted three months.

General Dynamics spokesman Peter Connolly has said the company committed no crime and said indictments resulted from ""a highly sophisticated regulatory and accounting matter which should be resolved in a civil forum.''

The indictment alleged that the defendants conspired to hide $7. …

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