Lawyers for Michael K. Deaver yesterday renewed their complaint that the the independent counsel prosecuting the former White House deputy chief of staff has a "personal conflict of interest" and should be barred from the case for "prosecutorial vindictiveness."
The lawyers moved for a hearing on the issue as jury selection in the case entered its second day in U.S. District Court here. While the issue was not new, the fact that it came up again -- for the fifth time, the prosecutor claimed -- illustrated how hard-fought the battle between Deaver and independent counsel Whitney North Seymour Jr. has become.
Although the prosecution and defense are in the midst of jury selection, both sides found time yesterday to filed motions accusing the other of improprieties.
Shortly after the longtime confidant of the president and his wife was indicted in March, Deaver's defense team accused Seymour of bearing a grudge against Deaver growing out of the independent counsel's defeat in the 1982 Republican senatorial primary in New York.
As part of their attack on the constitutionality of the act under which Seymour was appointed, the lawyers said Seymour had blamed his loss in part on Citizens for the Republic, a conservative political action committee on whose steering committee Deaver had served. This was evidence of bias against Deaver and constituted "prosecutorial vindictiveness," they said.
Yesterday, the defense lawyers filed a motion citing an article in the current issue of The National Law Journal that quoted Hofstra University law professor Monroe H. Freedman as calling the issue "a clear case for disqualification."
After Deaver's lawyers first made the accusation, Seymour called it "outlandish" and said that he had been unaware of any tie between Deaver and the Citizens for the Republic until Deaver raised the issue.
Yesterday Seymour denounced the motion as "the fifth attempt by defendant to concoct an explanation for his prosecution . . . based on a wholly unrelated dispute."
The prosecutor noted that the petition did not mention that other scholars quoted in the article questioned whether a conflict exists.
Deaver's lawyers asked U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to hold a hearing on the issue before allowing Seymour to make his opening argument to the jury. At the pace that jury selection was proceeding yesterday, that could be next Monday.
Thirty-nine of the 100 members of a jury panel had been questioned by the end of yesterday's session. Jackson has said he will question all 100 before attempting to seat a jury.