John Hull is not just any Indiana farmer. He used to have a little spread down in Costa Rica and, during the Nicaraguan civil war, used the ranch as a supply depot for the contra rebels. When Costa Rica arrested him for drug trafficking, Hull jumped bail and came home. Now he's wanted for murder in Costa Rica.
But Hull has little to worry about. The last time Costa Rican officials tried to give him a hard time, 19 members of Congress wrote a letter to Oscar Arias, then president of Costa Rica, hinting that anyone who messed with John Hull could endanger friendly relations between the two countries.
The record shows that Hull has led a charmed life:
According to a 1988 Senate subcommittee report and Costa Rican authorities, Hull allowed his ranch to be used as an arms-for-drugs swap meet. Between 1983 and 1985, the panel found, Hull let pilots fly in with contra munitions and out with cocaine bound for the United States.
The same Senate report said that in 1983 Hull borrowed $375,000 from the Overseas Private Investment Corp., using false documentation, and pocketed the cash. OPIC is a government-sponsored program to stimulate U.S. investments in foreign countries.
The subcommittee alleged that Hull falsified affidavits to a U.S. attorney investigating gun running and neutrality violations in Costa Rica.
In January 1989, Costa Rican authorities arrested Hull on charges of drug trafficking and neutrality violations. He jumped bail last August and fled to the United States.
Last December, a Costa Rican prosecutor charged Hull with homicide in a 1984 bombing that killed eight people. The target of the bombing, dissident contra Eden Pastora, survived.
Costa Rican authorities have not asked for Hull to be extradited to face the charges. If they do, they will find a wall of resistance by some members of the administration and Congress. An airing of his case could revive the embarrassing Iran-contra scandal.
Jeffrey Feldman knows what happens when one takes on Hull. He was the U.S. prosecutor who tried to investigate Hull in 1985. Feldman's team got the runaround from the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica and his request to convene a grand jury was denied. Then the Justice Department dropped the case and sent Feldman to Thailand.
Federal public defender John Mattes met the same brick wall in 1986. He was researching a case for a client arrested for gun running and he came upon Hull's name. Mattes went to Costa Rica and unraveled details of Hull's contra supply network. He says he encountered "clear attempts to obstruct the truth by elements of the Justice Department and the FBI."
One of Mattes's prime witnesses was Jack Terrell, who ended up being labeled a "terrorist" by Oliver L. North after Terrell tattled on Hull to Congress. Terrell had worked for Hull, but the two had a falling out. Our associate Dean Boyd has obtained a July 1986 memo prepared by North and initialed by then-President Ronald Reagan. The memo to Reagan says Terrell is a "terrorist threat" and details his testimony against contra supporters.