A battery of lawyers for Rep. Richard Kelly (R-Fla.) yesterday urged the chief judge of the U.S. District Court here to block a prosecution demand for documents from Kelly's House office and order the government to turn over videotapes of Kelly's alleged involvement in the Abscam bribery operation.
Attorney Gerald H. Goldstein said that without access to the tapes Kelly had no way to counter media reports of his alleged role in the scandal, which Goldstein charged were drawn from a government leaks about the content of the tapes.
Those leaks, Goldstein said, have turned Kelly into a "political and legislative eunuch on the floor of the House . . ." Kelly's effectiveness has been "eviscerated," Goldstein said.
Last month, Kelly resigned from the House conferences of all Republicans after party leaders and the House Repulbican Policy Committee approved a resolution to expel him from the conference. Kelly has admitted taking $25,000 from FBI undercover agents in connection with the Abscam operation. $2He has contended, however, that he took the money solely to protect an investigation he was conducting on his own.
Yesterday, Kelly's lawyers sought to persuade Judge William B. Bryant to set aside a government subpoena for an assortment of Kelly's office records dating back to January 1979, including an appointment diary, guest sign-in book, files and correspondence with various persons and records of a trip Kelly took to Israel last December.
The lawyers argued that the records were constitutionally protected from disclosure because they related to Kelly's legislative activities. Moreover, the lawyers said, they wanted to protect the interests of Kelly constituents whose names are included in those records.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael W. Farrelll told Bryant that Kelly's argument that he was protecting his constituents had a "hollow ring." Farrell said he would question whether the constituents would want to withhold the records if they knew that a grand jury was investigating "whether of not the congressman defrauded his constituents of the right to his honest services."
Bryant, who said he would announce his decision in the case Monday, indicated that he might have to examine the records privately before determining whether they are constitutionally protected from the government's subpoena.
During the government's argument opposing release of the tapes to Kelly, Bryant commented, "Maybe it will be a sufficient deterrent to the government if they know that if they lead [the information] they've got to give it over. . . ."
Bryant added in reference to the leaks that if Kelly were never named as a defendant in the case, "some parts of his statements have been thrown to the wind and he's left to twist in the wind."
Remarking again on the tapes, Bryant said that disclosure, and Kelly's expected public response to the tapes, would exacerbate the situation.
Meanwhile, it was reported yesterday that the government has shown videotapes to Rep. Raymond Ledere (D-Pa.) and Philadelphia lawyer Howard Criden, both of whom were allegedly involved in the Abscam operation. The New York Daily News said that the tapes were shown in an effort to get Lederer and Criden to cooperate with the prosecution.
Criden allegedly served as a middleman between undercover FBI agents, posing as representatives of an oil-rich Arab sheik, and targets of the Abscam investigation. Lederer allegedly accepted $50,000 in connection with the operation.