By James Rowley WASHINGTON - Lawrence E. Walsh ended his fourth
year as Iran-Contra prosecutor Wednesday fighting to preserve his
most important convictions and pry evidence from unwilling witnesses
to complete his investigation.
Congress and much of the public appear to have forgotten, or at
least lost interest, in the biggest scandal of the Reagan
But a grand jury continues to hear evidence in the case, and
Walsh says he will decide by spring whether to seek new indictments
or conclude his investigation.
In the meantime, the Oklahoma City resident gets a chilly
reception from the Bush administration, whose hard-line stance on
releasing classified documents scuttled the prosecution of former
CIA agent Joseph Fernandez.
He endures the editorial taunts of conservative commentators.
One recently compared him to a dinner guest who won't go home.
His office is still dueling in closed court proceedings with
Oliver L. North over the former White House aide's refusal to give
more testimony to the grand jury.
North scored a major victory earlier this year when a federal
appeals court set aside his three felony convictions for his role in
covering up the sale of U.S. arms to Iran and the diversion of
profits to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.
The decision bodes ill for Walsh's other major triumph - five
guilty verdicts earlier this year against former national security
adviser John M. Poindexter, convicted of lying to Congress and
obstructing its investigations.
Poindexter's appeal is set to be argued Feb. 28.
And now Walsh is fighting a rear-guard action against Jeffrey
Toobin, a former junior associate of his office who wants to publish
a book about the Iran-Contra investigation that the independent
counsel contends would expose grand jury secrets. Toobin has filed
suit against Walsh in New York.
``I have never felt in the center of friends,'' said Walsh, a
former federal judge and Wall Street lawyer who is a month shy of
his 79th birthday but looks at least 10 years younger. ``This has
always been a lonely place.''
But Walsh, who shuttles between Washington and his home in
Oklahoma City, said his investigation achieved its goal of
uncovering the wrongs of the Iran-Contra affair.
``The central actors have been pretty well described,'' he said
in an interview, while acknowledging that ``the supervisory and
support roles may never be fully exposed.''
When the investigation is over, ``we will have substantially a
full story, but there will undoubtedly be enclaves that aren't fully
developed,'' Walsh said. …