Reps. John Murphy (D-N.Y.) and Frank Thompson (D-N.J.), the most influential congressmen to be convicted in the FBI's Abscam probe of political corruption, say they will appeal, but one juror says the panel never seriously doubted their guilt.
A U.S. District Court jury in Brooklyn Wednesday night found both guilty of conspiracy and Thompson also guilty of bribery in accepting $50,000 from undercover agents posing as representatives of fictitious Arab sheiks seeking help with immigration matters.
One juror, Alfred Moskowitz, 62, of Brooklyn, said the panel was surprised the two congressmen would "swallow" an FBI "cock-and-bull" story about sheiks without checking out the men making the claims.
Moskowitz said there was little doubt in jurors' minds about the guilt of the defendants. Thompson, 62, chairman of the House Administration Committee, faces up to 22 years in prison for convictions on conspiracy, bribery and accepting an illegal gratuity. He was found innocent of conflict of interest.
Murphy, 54, chairman of the House Merchant Marine Committee, could face sentences of up to nine years on three convictions: conspiracy, conflict of interest and accepting an illegal gratuity. He was found innocent of bribery.
Both men were defeated in reelection efforts last month. Murphy has served nine terms in Congress; Thompson 13.
As in past Abscam cases, Moskowitz said government videotapes of meetings between FBI agents and the defendants were the decisive pieces of the evidence.
Thompson and Murphy never handled briefcases said to contain the bribe money, but Moskowitz said jurors concluded that the congressmen knew what was going on.
In Washington, meanwhile, Rep. Richard Kelly (R-Fla.) went on trial yesterday on charges of conspiracy and accepting a $25,000 bribe in the Abscam probe. Kelly, 55, will be the first Abscam defendant to claim he accepted FBI money as part of his personal investigation of suspected wrongdoing.
Selecting 12 jurors from a pool of 250 District residents is expected to take several days.