U.S. Rep. Charles C. Diggs Jr., (D-Mich.) yesterday pleaded innocent to charges that he illegally received $101,000 in kickbacks from employes on his federal payroll, and said he has no intention of relinquishing any of his congressional duties while the charges are pending.
Diggs entered the plea before U. S. District Judge Joseph C. Waddy, who set a tentative trial date for June 26. Diggs' next scheduled court appearance is for a pretrial motions hearings on May 9. He was released on personal bond.
Waddy also suggested that Diggs' attorney, Vincent Fuller of the firm of Williams and Connolly, and Assistant U. S. Attorney Eric B. Marcy of the fraud division discuss any possible "disposition of the case" - such as plea bargaining - before May 9.
Diggs is charged in the federal indictment with giving pay raises to three of his congressional employes with the assurance that they use the money to pay his personal bills. In addition, he is accused of placing three other persons on his congressional payroll when they actually worked for his family funeral business, The House of Diggs, in Detroit.
In the courtroom, the 12-term congressman and House District Committee chairman spoke only to say "Not guilty" when asked his plea to the charges.
Outside the courtroom, however, Diggs read a prepared statement in which he said he was "deeply distressed by the charges leveled against me."
As he has said before, Diggs added "I do not believe that I have violated any federal law or any House rule or precedent."
He said he intends to continue as planned to seek renomination and reelection, and that the indictment "will not hinder my efforts to continue to provide appropriate representation and service" for his constituents.
The 55-year-old congressman, a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, emphasized that there is "not the slightest suggestion of any influence-peddling or any other improper legislative activities."
Furthermore, he said, there is no allegation that his employes "engaged in any conduct" under duress or threat of being fired.