Judge urged to bar tapes to Packwood's lawyer

January 05, 1994|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The Senate ethics committee, taking a hard line on Sen. Bob Packwood's taped diaries, urged a federal judge yesterday to bar the Oregon Republican's lawyer from copying or even listening to the recordings for fear of erasing evidence of tampering.

The recordings, plus typed transcripts of the diaries, are now being held temporarily by U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Jackson until he rules on the Senate panel's demand for the diaries for use in an ethics investigation.

The judge took custody of the diaries last month after Mr. Packwood's secretary said under oath that the senator had altered both the tapes and the transcripts after the panel's investigation had begun. The committee is looking into charges of unwanted sexual advances and other misdeeds by the five-term senator.

After turning those items over to the court, Mr. Packwood's lawyers asked for the right to copy them, arguing that they needed to know all of what is in them to "effectively represent" him.

The committee strongly resisted that request yesterday, saying that copying any of the tapes "runs an unacceptable risk" of further harming the quality of the recordings and making it more difficult to identify any changes and to recover deleted material.

While it said it had no objection to the Packwood legal team's reviewing the transcripts, it said it was not willing to let the tapes be replayed at least until a technician "can ensure protection against the potential loss of information."

Noting that the Justice Department also is seeking access to the diaries for possible use in a criminal investigation, the ethics committee suggested that the department might have something to say about the measures needed to protect the tapes and transcripts.

In another legal filing with the judge yesterday, the Senate panel argued that the senator has forfeited any possible claim he might have had under the Fifth Amendment for protection of his diaries from the subpoena. He has waited too long to make that claim and thus waived it,the panel contended.

Although he had many chances to plead his Fifth Amendment rights, Mr. Packwood waited eight months to claim that he had a right not to be forced to give evidence against himself, the panel argued.

It accused the senator of engaging deliberately in time-wasting tactics and "gamesmanship" with the committee over its demands for information from him.

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