SCRANTON, PA., AUG. 15 -- Former Pennsylvania deputy attorney general Richard L. Guida pleaded guilty to a felony cocaine distribution charge today shortly after a federal prosecutor said Guida had supplied cocaine to "numerous friends and associates" while in office and used the drug with Henry G. Barr, a former top aide to Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.
The plea by Guida, who until he resigned in September 1986 had been Pennsylvania's chief criminal prosecutor, came on the same day that another former state deputy attorney general, W. Michael Trant, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possessing cocaine between April 1985 and October 1987. For all but the last three months of that period, Trant was director of the state attorney general's office of legislative affairs.
The two guilty pleas provided new details about a 15-month federal drug investigation that officials say has uncovered widespread cocaine use among professionals at the highest levels of Pennsylvania and federal law enforcement. Last Friday, Barr, who served as then-Gov. Thornburgh's general counsel and later as Thornburgh's special assistant for criminal investigations at the Justice Department, was indicted on two misdemeanor cocaine charges and two felony counts of making false statements to obtain a department security clearance.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon A.D. Zubrod said the investigation is continuing and focusing on cocaine use among those involved in public health, such as doctors, and others who hold jobs "involving a public trust." But he added, "We're not anticipating the indictments of any other current or former public officials at this time."
Guida, 43, a wiry man with a salt-and-pepper mustache, appeared relaxed at today's proceeding and bantered with FBI agents who had investigated him. A flamboyant courtroom performer who rose to direct the state's criminal investigations, Guida had gained prominence for winning the conviction of a Philadelphia-area high school principal on charges of murdering teacher Susan Reinert and her two children, a case that became the subject of a made-for-TV movie.
In March, Guida agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and testified that he had used cocaine repeatedly with Barr and others, including one of his law partners and a local investment banker and sports club owner he has identified as Barr's "source of cocaine." But Guida's initial guilty plea, to misdemeanor possession charges, was dissolved after Zubrod alleged that Guida was holding back information on his cocaine use with another "high-ranking" public official.
Zubrod told reporters after today's proceeding that on more than 50 occasions during the December 1984 to October 1987 period covered by the felony guilty plea Guida had shared small "lines" of cocaine, totaling a gram or less, with friends and others.
In court, Zubrod had identified Barr as "among those individuals" who used cocaine with Guida. But he emphasized that he was not alleging that Guida was Barr's "supplier." Barr is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court here next week, and his lawyer has said he will plead not guilty.
Zubrod also said the government was not alleging Guida distributed cocaine for profit -- a point made by Guida and his lawyer, Paul Killion, during a hearing on the plea before U.S. District Judge Edwin Kozik.
Guida told Kozik his cocaine distribution was only "in a social situation." The legal term for this is "accommodation distribution," and Zubrod acknowledged that such charges are rarely brought against ordinary citizens. But Zubrod has said the drug use in this case is far more serious because it involves public officials.
Guida could be sentenced to 20 years in prison, but Zubrod told reporters he did not believe a lengthy jail term was warranted.
Although Guida's name had surfaced publicly before, today's guilty plea was the first time Trant's involvement had been disclosed. Zubrod told Kozik that during the course of the probe, Trant, 39, and a graduate of Georgetown Law School, had voluntarily contacted him and confessed to cocaine use, which he said involved "numerous occasions with numerous individuals," including Guida and the investment banker Guida has alleged was Barr's drug supplier.