Defense lawyers for Rep. Frank Thompson (D-N.J.) accused the government yesterday of repeated abuses of power and violations of law in pursuing the Abscam bribery case.
Stepping up their attack against Thompson's indictment in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, his attorneys filed a 54-page memorandum contending that the videotapes of his meetings with FBI agents and middlemen last October failed to show any indication of wrongdoing on his part.
Instead, they said, the tapes showed not only that the veteran congressman rejected a vague offer of money at one meeting, but also that FBI agents were unsuccessful in pressing $50,000 on him at a second, follow-up session.
Thompson was indicated last month on charges of conspiring to trade his influence for bribes from FBI undercover agents. He had been brought to an FBI-leased house here last Oct. 9 by Philadelphia lawyer Howard L. Criden who, other tapes reportedly show, had declared a week earlier that he could "deliver" the congressman to the FBI operatives.
Detailing the defense version of the Oct. 9 meetings for the first time, the defense lawyers, Daniel A. Rezneck and Stephen E. Kaufman, said the tape of the first get-together clearly shows Thompson thought it was to discuss financial investments in his congressional district.
At one point, there was "an oblique mention of money" for help on immigration matters, but Thompson "stated unequivocally that he was not interested," the lawyers said. Despite, this, a second meeting was arranged later in the day at which, according to one FBI agent, Thompson was to be given a briefcase containing $50,000 "when he arrives."
The lawyers said, however, that it was Criden who took the briefcase after stating, without elaboration, that "Frank understands the situation." At no point, the defense memo said, was Thompson told the briefcase contained money. Disputing accounts that he struggled with Criden for the briefcase, the lawyers said Criden tried to maneuver Thompson into touching it.
Calling for dismissal of the indictment, the lawyers denounced the alleged conspiracy and an "elaborate theatrical exercise" and accused the FBI of breaking numerous laws in renting the house and perpetrating other deceptions to keep the investigation a secret.