The sentencing of Iran-contra figure Thomas G. Clines came to an abrupt halt in U.S. District Court in Baltimore after Clines' defense attorney angrily denounced allegations by prosecutors that the defendant lied to a federal probation officer.
Paula M. Junghans, Clines' lawyer, virtually exploded in anger in the courtroom yesterday as the sentencing hearing began.
She called the allegations "outrageous," said they contain "serious and, I think, inaccurate" allegations that the defendant lied to his federal probation officer about 10 property transfers, and said she wanted a week to respond to them in writing.
The prosecution's comments were made Wednesday in a probation report that cannot be made public under court rules.
But Junghans said prosecutors alleged that Clines did not disclose some property transfers to the probation officer who wrote the report. She said documents submitted to the officer indicate that is incorrect.
Clines said later -- before Junghans pulled him away from reporters -- that the prosecutors, members of the Office of Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, accused him of "transferring some property," apparently to hide it from possible forfeiture to the government.
Clines was convicted in September of four felony tax charges tied to his acquisition of guns for the Nicaraguan rebels in an operation masterminded by former White House aides John Poindexter and Oliver North.
The allegations of hiding assets could be significant because Clines faces a possible $1 million in fines as well as a maximum sentence of 16 years in prison.
Judge Norman P. Ramsey, surprised and somewhat angered by Junghans' outburst, said the probation report showed "a remarkable decline in the apparent financial condition of the defendant in the period of one year."
But the judge gave Junghans a week to respond to the allegations and he rescheduled Clines' sentencing for Dec. 13.
Junghans said she did not get a copy of the prosecution comments until Wednesday, did not get to read them until that night when she was leaving town and had no time yesterday to draft a response because she did not return to Baltimore until early afternoon, shortly before the sentencing hearing.
Lead prosecutor Stuart E. Abrams confirmed after court adjourned that the prosecution team's comments referred to "transfers of assets."
But, as Abrams was talking with reporters, Junghans interrupted, saying, "What they [prosecutors] did is outrageous, and if I were you I would not accept any representations from the Office of the Independent Counsel.
"What will be said [by the defense] will be said on the court record,".