A 65-year-old McLean man who was targeted for assassination after helping lure a fugitive former CIA agent into the hands of U.S. authorities, has been shot and wounded outside a McLean restaurant, authorities said yesterday.
The victim's wife said the assailant took a briefcase, and a lawyer for the wounded man said the case contained sensitive documents concerning work for the federal government.
Ernest Keiser, who was put on a hit list after helping persuade Edwin P. Wilson to leave the safety of Libya, and had, according to his attorney, been involved in efforts to return fugitive financier Robert Vesco to American jurisdiction, was shot in the right side Sunday night.
Fairfax County police said Keiser was shot about 10:50 p.m. in the parking lot of Charley's Place at 6930 Old Dominion Dr. They said he was wounded after he left the restaurant to retrieve something from his parked car.
Keiser, whose wife Beebee said her husband was in the real estate business, was listed in satisfactory condition yesterday at Fairfax Hospital. Police said his room was under guard.
Although Keiser's wife did not specify the contents of the briefcase she said was taken from her husband, Keiser's attorney, William I. Aronwald, said it contained documents he was told were related to "work he's done for the government." He declined to give details.
Police would neither confirm nor deny that a briefcase was taken.
Keiser was to have gone on trial yesterday in White Plains, N.Y., on a grand larceny charge. He also was under a federal obstruction of justice indictment in Tampa, Fla., according to Aronwald.
Keiser's "cooperation with the government in sensitive matters" figured in pretrial negotiations in the New York case and is connected to the defense he expected to make in Florida, according to the lawyer.
"I don't think I really know enough at this point to say what the full scope of this thing is," said Fairfax County prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr.
In 1982, knowledgeable officials said that Keiser had worked for eight months in an elaborate scheme to get former CIA agent Wilson back from Libya. Wilson had been under a federal indictment accusing him of providing terrorist training, equipment and explosives to Libyan ruler Col. Muammar Qaddafi. Keiser once described himself as an "old friend" of Wilson.
Wilson was eventually sentenced to 32 years in prison on charges of conspiring to send weapons and explosives to Libya or Libyan agents.
After being indicted on charges of offering $1.2 million for the assassination of two prosecutors and six other persons, including Keiser, Wilson was convicted in New York City last year of trying to murder all eight. Officials said Wilson is being held at a maximum security federal prison in Marion, Ill.
Herald Price Fahringer, who was once Wilson's attorney, said last night that he was no longer authorized to speak for him, but added that "I can't imagine" that Wilson was connected with the shooting of Keiser.
Aronwald said Keiser was to have gone on trial yesterday on a charge of having obtained about $450,000 from someone in New York by various false representations.
He said that Keiser was confident of acquittal, and that the Justice Department had asked that the charge be dismissed "based on Keiser's prior cooperation with the government and based upon his ongoing cooperation with the government in a number of sensitive matters."
In the Tampa case, Aronwald said Keiser and others were charged with trying to get money from someone under indictment in Florida on the promise they would be able to "fix" his case with the Justice Department.
The lawyer said Keiser had made no offer to fix the case, and has pleaded not guilty.
In the course of the trial, he said, "I'm sure the government will have to concede Mr. Keiser was indeed involved in government efforts to obtain jurisdiction over Vesco," now believed in be out of the country avoiding extradition on fraud charges. Justice Department officials declined to comment on Aronwald's statements.