Attorney General Griffin Bell said today that the Justice Department is "very likely in a few days going to take the position that we may want to do away with federal parole board."
Bell made the statement in a speech to the Georgia bar convention here after restating his support for a Senate bill that would recodify federal criminal laws to allow for uniform sentencing of prisoners.
Hoping the bill would be passed by next spring, Bell said, "This brings up another question . . . once we pass that law, will we need a parole board or will it not determine to have a system of law where you serve your sentence?"
The Attorney General made the comments on the last day of the bar meeting which started Tuesday.
In another matter, five Georgia law enforcement associations today declared their support for former FBI agent John J. Kearney, who was indicted in April on charges of directing an illegal wiretapping and mail-opening operation during an investigation of leftist radicals in New York from 1970 to 1972.
Kearney, 55, of Simsbury, Conn, was in charge of a squad in the New York FBI office at that time. He was responsible for apprehending Weatherman fugitives charged with bombings. He retired from the bureau in June 1972 after 25 years.
Asked about the support statement, which was sent to Bell in a letter Thursday, Bell said, "I've received thousands of letters in that case. They're running about a hundred to one in favor of Kearney . . . I couldn't operate the Justice Department by taking a poll."
Maj. James E. Weaver of the Savannah police said the statement was significant because "it marks the first statewide expression of support from any state."
Weaver said the groups were upset because "it represents a retroactive prosecution. What he did was a routine thing in the Justice Department until a court decision banned it in 1972."
A major part of the case against Kearney is that he ordered wiretaps and mail openings without a court order.
In a news conference before the bar meeting, Bell also said that if former Attorney General John M. Mitchell, convicted of obstruction of justice and related crimes in the Watergate cover-up, were to seek a pardon, the Justice Department would consider it "routinely."
Bell would not comment further on the possibility of a pardon, but he said no such application has been received.