State attorneys opened arguments in the perjury trial of Richard G. Kleindienst today by trying to simplify for jurors the maze of illegal corporations they say the former U.S. attorney general knowingly represented.
"My duty is to see tht the people of Arizona get a fair trial," Assistant Attorney General Ron Collette told the jury in Maricopa County Superior Court. "You will see that the charges really are not complicated," he said as he read the 14 perjury counts, all taken from previous testimony by Kleindienst.
Kleindienst's attorney, Michael Scott, told the jury that the issues "is not simple, it is complex," and said of those involved in the case, "Many have lied under oath, made inconsistent statements under oath and some made no statements at all.
"The underlying facts are 5 years old, and people have a tendency to forget things," Scott said.
Kleindienst is accused of lying to a disciplinary committee of the Arizona state bar last December and in 1978 about his role in a multimillion-dollar insurance swindle involving the Teamster union's Central States Health and Welfare Fund.
In 1976, according to court papers, Kleindienst introduced by telephone then-California insurance promoter Joseph Hauser, whom Kleindienst represented, and then-union president Frank Fitzsimmons. Kleindienst asked Fitzsimmons to have the union award millions of dollars in insurance contracts to a Hauser firm, the papers said.
yfor landing Hauser's Family Provider Insurance Co. the $23 million annual contract, Kleindienst received a $250,000 fee that he split with partners.
The fee bacame a major source of embarrassment to Kleindienst because it prompted various state and federal investigations and tied him to what investigators described as a multimillion-dollar insurance swindle engineered by Hauser, who has since been convicted.
ykleindienst, 58, who served as the nation's top legal official during part of the Nixon administration, has maintained his innocence, claiming he was unaware that Hauser was using the Teamsters' money as his own to buy other corporations, including a Louisiana insurance company and a country club in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Kleindienst complained earlier this year that the news media ignored the fact that he had voluntarily taken two lie-detector tests in which the polygraph operators, he said, "concluded without any doubts in their minds, I have not been deceptive."
After his indictment April 14 on the perjury counts, Kleindienst described himself as "not one of the conspirators" but "one of the victims" and said he had "never had to repent for the sin of perjury as charged against me."
Kleindienst, a former Arizona gubernatorial candidate, sat in the first row of spectators' benches with attorney William Smitherman. The sharply-attired former Washington attorneys were a sharp contrast to the predominantly gray-haired jurors in short sleeves and cotton T-shirts.
Seven years ago, Kleindienst, now a private attorney in Tucson, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failing to testify fully and accurately before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1972 in connection with the International Telephone & Telegraph payoff scandal.