Lawyers for former assistant Navy secretary George A. Sawyer, citing the example of Attorney General Edwin Meese III, have charged that Sawyer is being "selectively prosecuted" for allegedly making false statements on financial disclosure forms and are asking that his indictment be dismissed.
Sawyer, who resigned in mid-1983 to become a vice president of General Dynamics Corp., was indicted last month on two counts of allegedly concealing contacts he had with the firm about a job there while he was still working at the Pentagon. The firm was a major bidder on contracts for Navy ships while Sawyer was the Pentagon overseer of Navy shipbuilding and logistics.
The indictment also alleges that Sawyer failed to disclose $833 in travel expenses paid by the St. Louis-based company when he was engaged in job interviews.
Sawyer, 54, who has taken a leave of absence from General Dynamics, has denied the charges. His trial is set for Dec. 16.
His charges are unrelated to a federal indictment returned Monday by a Los Angeles grand jury accusing General Dynamics and four present or former executives of attempting to defraud the government on the development of an Army antiaircraft weapon.
In the Sawyer case, papers filed in federal court in Alexandria this week quote from a 1984 report by independent counsel Jacob A. Stein that cleared Meese of violating any law in financial dealings with associates who later got federal jobs.
Internal Justice Department policy is not to prosecute for false filings on financial disclosure statements "except in the most egregious cases, such as where the false filing is connected with an effort to conceal or cover up significant underlying conduct that is clearly improper, illegal or criminal," the court papers quote Stein's report as saying.
"Because we found no indication of any underlying improper or illegal conduct that Mr. Meese might have sought to conceal, prosecution in this case would be inconsistent with Justice Department policy," Stein's report is quoted in the court papers.
"Likewise . . . no underlying illegal conduct can be found which would provide a motive for George Sawyer to have willfully concealed or falsified any of the matters with which he is charged," his lawyers state in their briefs. "No charges against Mr. Sawyer under the conflict-of-interest laws was included in the [November] indictment."
For more than a year, a Connecticut federal grand jury has been investigating General Dynamics officials, including Sawyer, the court papers state. The grand jury is looking into alleged cost overruns on submarine contracts by a General Dynamics subsidiary in Groton, Conn.
Attorney Terrence O'Donnell also will claim in court Friday that Sawyer's indictment is flawed and should be dismissed because of "a litany of abuses of the grand jury process by the prosecutors in charge of the investigation."
Among the alleged abuses are:
*Conducting an investigation of Sawyer's alleged offenses before a grand jury that did not have jurisdiction to indict him. Sawyer was indicted by a federal grand jury in Alexandria when prosecutors brought it evidence gathered by the Connecticut grand jury investigation, the court papers state.
*Leaking information to the press about the grand jury investigation.
*Continuing to use the Connecticut grand jury to prepare for Sawyer's trial in Virginia.
*Failing to present exculpatory evidence that government prosecutors "were literally tripping over . . . . " to the Alexandria grand jury, including the fact that Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. knew of Sawyer's plans to join a private firm and therefore "effectively disqualified [Sawyer] from significant decision-making."
A spokesman for Lehman said yesterday he had no comment.