A lawyer for Rep. John W. Jenrette Jr. (D-S.C.) yesterday tried to demonstrate that his client because a target in the FBI's undercover Abscam operation after a bureau informer lured a friend of Jenrette with promises of business and real estate loans.
At the U.S. District Court trial here of Jenrette and Richmond businessman John R. Stowe, Jenrette's attorney introduced tape recordings of an October 1978 telephone call in which Stowe told the informer, Melvin Weinberg, that Stowe knew a congressman, later identified as Jenrette, whom he described as "as bit a crook as I am."
In other tape-recorded conversations played for the jurors yesterday, Weinberg, a convicted con man, pressed Stowe for some contact with the congressman.
In the meantime, Weinberg, who taped the conversations for the FBI, delayed taking any on business deals proposed by Stowe.
"I'd like to meet with the congressman," Weinberg said in conversation with Stowe taped on April 25, 1979.
"Yeah, but I won't do that, Mel, until we, one thing at a time, ah, that guy is a very close personal friend of mine and . . . I don't know whether I want him to get involved in this or not," Stowe responded. He later asked, "What do you have in mind for the congressman . . .?"
"I can give him any kind of deal he wants," Weinberg said, after reminding Stowe that Stowe had said that Jenrette wanted to refinance some property in South Carolina.
". . . You know you're going to want to favor in return, and I don't know whether I want to put him on the hook or not," Stowe said.
Weinberg responded: "When I want a favor, all right, I'll pay for the favor. I don't want nothing for nothing."
Jenrette, 44, a three-term congressman, is charged with bribery and conspiracy, and Stowe, 50, is accused of conspiracy and aiding and abetting a bribery.
The government contends that the two conspired to take payoffs from an undercover FBI agent posing as the representative of fictitious Arab businessmen in exchange for Jenrette's promise to introduce special immigration legislation.
Tape recordings of seven telephone conversations were introduced by the defense yesterday during cross-examination of FBI undercover agent Anthony Amoroso, who had pretended that he represented the Arab "sheiks."
Earlier this week, jurors saw videotapes of meetings involving Amoroso, Weinberg, Jenrette and Stowe at a house on W Street NW.
A videotape of a Dec. 6, 1979, meeting showed Stowe, who said he was on his way to Jenrette's office, accepting a bag containing $50,000 from Amoroso.
Yesterday the jurors heard tapes of telephone conversations that occurred between October 1978 and May 1979.
In three April 1979 conversations, Weinberg reminded Stowe to contact his friend the congressman, advising Stowe that "you've got to have the juice behind you" to get favorable financing for business deals.
In a May 2, 1979, conversation, Stowe told Weinberg that he had talked to "my congressman," whom he said wanted "to know what kind of favor you want."
"Offhand, we don't know yet," Weinberg said. He then proposed meeting with the congressman the following wee, and later asked Stowe, "What's his name again?"
"John Jenrette," Stowe said. He then spelled Jenrette's name and gave Weinberg the congressman's Capitol Hill telephone number.