U.S. District Court Judge Prentice H. Marshall accused defense lawyers in the Teamsters union bribery case today of "desperately" trying to keep FBI tape recordings from being turned over to jurors for their deliberations.
With the trial entering its final stages, Marshall rejected the maneuver and said the jury is entitled to each recording if it is to determine who was lying and when.
Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams and four co-defendants being tried on charges of conspiring to bribe Sen. Howard W. Cannon (D-Nev.) have relied heavily on the notion, as Marshall has observed, that "these fellas were lying to each other all the time" when the FBI was listening in.
"The defense has defended this case on the grounds that those tapes are all bull manure," the judge said. After jurors had been sequestered for the day, he declared sternly that it is too late for lawyers to try keeping the recordings from the jury.
"If I represented any defendant in this case, I wouldn't want the jury to have those tapes either," Marshall said. "But the defense fashioned in this case cries out for the jury to have those tapes . . . . They are entitled to hear the tone of the speakers . . . . "
The ruling came after rebuttal testimony from government witnesses. One, a longtime acquaintance and neighbor of Cannon, flatly contradicted the senator's testimony on several key issues.
The government has charged that Williams and Chicago insurance executive Allen Dorfman, a longtime Teamsters union associate, "cut a deal" with Cannon at a meeting Jan. 10, 1979, in Las Vegas. According to the indictment, Williams, Dorfman and the other defendants tried to obtain Las Vegas real estate for Cannon at a cut-rate price in return for help in blocking trucking deregulation legislation.
Cannon denied being offered a bribe and said he had met Dorfman only once, in a chance encounter at a Nevada hotel in 1971. Cannon suggested that Dorfman's tape-recorded claims of a longstanding friendship with him were lies, denied familiarity with Teamsters' lobbying efforts on deregulation and said, "Dorfman never lobbied me on anything."
In response, the prosecution called Vernon G. Willis, a Las Vegas investment banker. Willis was head of the homeowners' association in Cannon's neighborhood in late 1978 when the group was trying to buy a nearby tract owned by the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund in order to fend off high-rise development.
Willis said that at a homeowners' meeting in Cannon's Las Vegas office in November, 1978, Cannon "said he had been lobbied quite extensively by Mr. Dorfman" on trucking deregulation and other issues affecting the Teamsters. As a consequence, Willis said, Cannon "volunteered to call" Dorfman and "determine if we could purchase the property directly from the owners."
Final arguments in the trial, which began Oct. 12, are to start Thursday, and the jury is expected to begin deliberating Saturday.
Prentice's remarks about the tapes included pointed observations about how Williams could not recall saying he had been "whistled in by the senator" in the spring of 1979 to explain what had gone wrong with the proposed property sale.
Marshall also noted in skeptical tones how another witness tried to dismiss a damaging conversation in Dorfman's office by suggesting that it was "happy hour" time and "we were all in our cups."
The defendants "have selected a defense in this case," the judge said. "They have made their bed, and they are going to lie in it."