Liddy jury hears Nixon aide's testimony

In 1996 video, he says call-girl theory `plausible'

January 26, 2001|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

Charles W. Colson, a top aide in the Nixon White House, said in videotaped testimony that the theory that the Watergate burglars were looking for call-girl photos is "one of the most plausible explanations" of the infamous break-in at Democratic headquarters.

Colson's testimony, taped in 1996, was played yesterday for the federal jury hearing a $5.1 million defamation case brought against Watergate figure G. Gordon Liddy by a former Democratic National Committee secretary

Ida "Maxie" Wells, now a community college instructor in Baton Rouge, La., claims Liddy hurt her reputation by wrongly telling audiences that she kept photos of prostitutes in her desk and helped arrange trysts between the women and DNC visitors.

In testimony over the past two days, Liddy's attorneys have tried to show that the "call-girl theory" of Watergate has been discussed by others for years and is a legitimate issue in the scandal that brought down President Nixon.

The theory holds that White House Counsel John W. Dean directed the burglars to recover incriminating photos of his then-fiancee, Maureen Biner. Dean has denounced that version of events, discussed prominently in two books since the mid-1980s.

Jurors were shown a television report about the theory, with talk show host Geraldo Rivera promising, "It's wild, it's scandalous, and it just might be true."

Why the burglars broke into DNC headquarters was not made clear in the early 1970s because the Watergate inquiry focused on who directed the operation.

Colson, who pleaded guilty to obstructing justice, said in his testimony that the conventional theory of a political espionage mission never made sense to him because Republicans already had plenty of information about key Democrats.

"After all these years, after all the investigations, after all the people involved, we still really don't know why they broke in," he said.

On Wednesday, jurors saw the videotaped deposition of a former federal prosecutor who investigated a prostitution ring at the Columbia Plaza Apartments in the early 1970s and who said he wanted to investigate rumors about a possible link to the DNC at the nearby Watergate complex.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Rudy said his supervisors told him to shut down the probe after the break-in.

No one connected with the DNC supports the call-girl theory. But a reporter for the Fox News Channel testified yesterday that Robert S. Strauss, DNC treasurer at the time of the break-in, said in a recent interview that some visiting Democrats wanted female companions while in Washington.

Reporter James Rosen said Strauss told him, "These people were willing to pay for sex" - but also told him the comment could not be included in a book Rosen was writing about Nixon's attorney general, John N. Mitchell.

Strauss was unavailable yesterday to comment.

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