Rostenkowski lawyers said to want to avoid a trial

May 19, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Attorneys for Rep. Dan Rostenkowski are trying to resolve the nearly completed criminal investigation of the Illinois Democrat, sources say.

One source, speaking only on condition of anonymity yesterday, told the Associated Press Mr. Rostenkowski's defense attorney, Robert S. Bennett, was "having discussions" with prosecutors aimed at avoiding a lengthy criminal trial.

Lawyers told the New York Times yesterday the discussions could lead to Mr. Rostenkowski's agreement to plead guilty to a lesser charge. At this point, they said that the government and Mr. Rostenkowski's lawyers remain far apart and that the effort to reach an agreement could go nowhere, in which case Mr. Rostenkowski could be indicted, possibly before Memorial Day.

The U.S. attorney's office in Washington has been investigating Mr. Rostenkowski's use of his office and campaign accounts and allegations that he improperly received money in stamp transactions at the House Post Office.

News organizations have reported previously that U.S. Attorney

Eric Holder has sent the Justice Department a memo recommending that Mr. Rostenkowski be indicted.

Mr. Holder informed Congress, in a letter made public earlier this year, that his investigation was nearly over.

If Mr. Rostenkowski were to be indicted on a felony charge, House Democratic Caucus rules would force him to step down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. That could harm President Clinton's health care plan, since the president is counting on Mr. Rostenkowski's clout -- which comes with his chairmanship -- to line up crucial votes.

There was no indication that Mr. Rostenkowski has agreed to plead guilty to any charge, and he publicly has asserted his innocence of any wrongdoing.

The investigation began as a drug and embezzlement probe of bTC House Post Office employees in 1991, but eventually focused on Mr. Rostenkowski.

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