Liddy defamation trial begins next week

Suit claims woman called madam by talk-show host

January 09, 2001|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

Attorneys went back and forth over witness lists filled with Watergate figures and historians yesterday as a nearly four-year-old defamation lawsuit against G. Gordon Liddy proceeds to trial next week in Baltimore's federal courthouse.

In April 1997, a former Democratic National Committee secretary sued Liddy, now a radio talk-show host and lecturer, saying he repeatedly told audiences that she had procured prostitutes for Democratic officials during the early 1970s.

Ida Maxwell "Maxie" Wells contends that Liddy damaged her reputation by promoting the untrue theory that the Watergate burglars in June 1972 were looking for photographs of White House lawyer John W. Dean's fiancee among call-girl pictures kept in Wells' desk.

She is seeking $100,000 in damages.

Liddy, who spent four years in prison for his part in the burglary at DNC headquarters, is expected to testify in the case. But U.S. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz said yesterday that he is unlikely to allow Wells' attorneys to question Liddy's wife about the family's finances.

Hinting at his impatience with the long-running and contentious case, Motz said during yesterday's informal hearing that the lawyers might want to "shake hands, and say this is a wonderful piece of history that ought to stay history."

Kerri L. Hook, a Washington attorney representing Liddy, said outside court that his client, who lives in Prince George's County, has made it clear he isn't interested in settling the case.

Motz dismissed the case in 1998, saying that Wells was an involuntary public figure and was unable to prove that Liddy had acted with "actual malice" in making the statements about her DNC work. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit in 1999, saying Wells was entitled to a trial.

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