Packwood's taped diary altered, probers fear

December 15, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bob Packwood appears to have tampered with the tape-recorded diary being sought by Ethics Committee investigators, Senate lawyers charged yesterday.

They asked the U.S. District Court here to seize immediately from Mr. Packwood the diaries and all other materials subpoenaed in the Senate committee's probe of charges that he engaged in sexual misconduct and sought favors from lobbyists.

The request raised the question of whether Mr. Packwood, an Oregon Republican, had obstructed justice by altering the tapes.

A former Packwood secretary, Cathy Wagner Cormack, who transcribed his diaries, told Senate investigators on Friday in a deposition that the senator had changed some of the diary tapes after the investigation began.

According to the papers filed with the court yesterday, Ms. Cormack testified that Mr. Packwood "took back some tapes in my possession which I had not yet transcribed. At a later time, it appeared to me that he may have made some revisions. . . . Subsequently, he confirmed that he had."

"It is now apparent that the integrity of Senator Packwood's diary tapes is not guaranteed," the court papers noted. "The revelation of alteration of evidence reinforces the [ethics] committee's need for prompt access to all subpoenaed material."

Neither Mr. Packwood's spokeswoman nor his attorney, Robert H. Bennett, was available for comment yesterday.

In addition to voicing the fear that the diary tapes had been altered, the court papers yesterday charged that the senator had improperly paid Ms. Cormack from his Senate office account and, later, his campaign fund to transcribe the diary tapes.

The Senate attorneys noted that Mr. Packwood's diary essentially was a private undertaking.

The diary, dating back to 1969, has become a focal point in the Senate investigation.

The senator had initially granted access to the diary but later balked when investigators allegedly unearthed indications that he had improperly solicited help from lobbyists in finding a job for his former wife.

When the committee subpoenaed the diary materials, Mr. Packwood refused to hand them over, claiming a Fourth Amendment right to privacy. He later claimed a Fifth Amendment shield against self-incrimination.

The full Senate voted overwhelmingly to authorize committee attorneys to go to the District Court and seek enforcement of the subpoena. A hearing on the subpoena request is scheduled for tomorrow morning in Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's court.

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