A story in yesterday's Business & Finance pages concerning the Civil Service Commission appeal hearings on the dismissal of Interstate Commerce Commission official Robert Oswald should have identified the Washington Attorney who cancelled his appearance as a government witness as David A. Sutherlund. The ICC mispelled Sutherlund's name in identifing him in court documents. The same story reported that Rev. Thomas DeKay testified that he had heard a confession from Oswald in which Oswald said he was innocent. Rev. DeKay has asked The Washington Post to point out that Oswald released him from the traditional vow of confidentiality in order to testify in the case.
A key government witness in the Interstate Commerce Commission case for dismissing former secretary and congressional liaison officer Roberts Oswald abruptly cancelled a scheduled appearance at an appeals hearing for Oswald yesterday.
Washington attorney David Sutherland was planning to testify for the government at the third day of Civil Service Commission hearings into charges that Oswald had improperly referred him to regulated carriers as a possible attorney to represent those carriers in ICC proceedings.
But Sutherland did not appear as expected, and Oswald's attorney, Myles Ambrose, used that fact to help kick off his opening argument that Oswald was wrongfully dismissed from his $47.500 post late last year.
But Oswald's case opened only after it was learned that attorney Sutherland, had cancelled plans to testify. Sutherland was to testify that Oswald had allegedly referred Sutherland to a Tennessee trucking firm looking for a lawyer to take its case to the ICC - an action the ICC claims violates its Canons of Conduct.
Ambrose, in his opening arguement and during cross examination, was also able to weaken the testimony of other government witnesses by forcing them to admit that much of what Oswald was accused of doing was actually normal operating procedure.
"Basically," Ambrose said in his opening statement. "Oswald is charged with giving unknown and unspecified documents to unknown recipients at some unknown time in advance of some unknown release time, and that this in some unknown way constitutes a disclosure to some unknown members of the public, which in some unknown way is a violation of the Canons of Conduct."
Character witnesses who testified for Oswald included Rep. John Moss (D. Calif) and former Rep. William Maillard (R-Calif.).
Ambrose also produced witnesses to attest to the fact that Oswald had indeed attempted suicide shortly after learning that he had been dismissed by the ICC and that at one point a priest had been called. Ambrose charged that even upon learning of the suicide attempt the ICC refused to grant his attorney's request for an extension of the 30-day period Oswald had to respond to the charges.
The priest, the Rev. Thomas DeKay, testified that in his confession, Oswald said he was innocent.
The ICC has charged that Oswald violated several Canons of Conduct by referring specific attorneys to carriers, and also asking a Washington attorney to lie to federal investigators seeking to determine that Oswald had sat in on a meeting with that attorney and Thomas Gambino, an official of a New York trucking firm and the son of the late reputed mob figure Carlo Gambino.
Last Friday, Oswald was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of bribery, obstruction of justice and consipiracy to defraud the government. He is charged with taking payoffs and entertainment for regulated carriers.