Tongsun Park, testifying in his first day of cross examination in the bribery and tax evasion trial of former representative Otto E. Passman, said he initially lied to U.S. and Korean prosecutors about his payments to U.S. politicians.
Park told the jury of Passman's former constituents that in late 1976 he "did not want to implicate Congressman Passman" because he was "interested in protecting his friends" as long as he could.
Camille F. Gravel Jr., Passman's attorney, conducted cross examination aimed at Park's change in motivation, which resulted in his cooperation with U.S. officials in the investigation of the Korean bribery scandal.
Passman, 78, once the powerful chairman of a key House Appropriations subcommittee, was indicated a year ago on charges of receiving more than $200,000 from Park in exchange for pressuring the U.S. and Korean governments into rice sales. A second indictment charged Passman with failure to pay taxes on the alleged payoffs.
Passman is the only past or present member of Congress to stand trial in the Korean bribery scandal.
Park called his interview in 1976 with Justice Department officials before he left the United States an "informal chat." He said he was not under oath, and consequently not obliged to discuss his payments to Passman and others. "I was determined to show my loyalty to my friends," Park testified.
Park said Korean officials questioned him three times informally. Each time he said he denied payment. "Loyalty in Asian countries," Park said, is a big issue, and he said that he and the Korean prosecutors "hoped this thing would blow over."
Park said he accepted the advice of his attorney, William G. Hundley, to remain outside the United States. "My counsel insisted until certain arrangements could be made I should stay put."
Gravel argued that the subsequent arrangement to grant Park immunity in return for his testimony against members of Congress was the result of pressure applied to Park by the Dorean government. Park described the signing of the immunity agreement as "a dramatic day, amounting to surrender."
Throughout the cross examination Gravel appeared to be laying a foundation to demonstrate Park's lack of credibility and sincerity in his testimony against Passman.
U.S. District Court Judge Earl Veron has tolerated Park's unsolicited and sometimes flippant remarks from the witness stand. However, the 57-year-old judge has taken deliberate steps to safeguard the trial by issuing a gag order on the defense, prosecution and the witnesses, sequestering the jury and threatening arrest of anyone attemping conversation with the jury.
In a belabored examination, Gravel asked Park, who turned 44 today, about his relations with more than 100 members of Congress. Asked about Rep. Daniel Flood (D-Pa.), Park said he did not know Flood at all. Gravel responded, "How long have you not known him?"
Cross examination of Park is to continue here Monday.