Liddy testifies in defamation lawsuit

January 30, 2001|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

G. Gordon Liddy, Watergate's macho cowboy who refused to testify during the scandal nearly 30 years ago to protect his superiors, took the stand yesterday in a style befitting his new public role - tell-all talk-radio host.

Defending himself in a $5.1 million defamation case, the 70-year-old Watergate conspirator went on the charm offensive. He regaled jurors and a courtroom full of curious onlookers with his firsthand account of history and a steady stream of one-liners.

Liddy at times became so animated as he testified about the events from 28 years ago that his attorney and U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz sometimes cut him off because he had strayed off course.

"That's one of my best stories," Liddy protested at one point, describing one unsuccessful attempt to get inside Democratic headquarters.

Motz replied: "I've never heard `the good-story theory of relevance.'"

The G. Gordon Liddy Show that played out in U.S. District Court in Baltimore was much like the daily radio version in one other way. Liddy refused to back off his claims that the 1972 break-in at Democratic headquarters was orchestrated by Nixon lawyer John W. Dean III, who wanted photographs that could have linked his future wife to a call-girl operation.

If anything, Liddy escalated the attacks, suggesting on the stand that Dean also used money from President Richard M. Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign to buy the silence of one person who could have tied Maureen Biner Dean to the prostitution ring.

"Follow the money," Liddy attorney John B. Williams said, repeating the line that made Watergate journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein famous, as he questioned Liddy about the latest claim against Dean.

Dean has dismissed the "call-girl theory" entirely. The defamation lawsuit on trial was brought by Ida "Maxie" Wells, a former Democratic National Committee secretary who Liddy has suggested kept the call-girl photos in her desk and helped arrange trysts for visiting Democratic officials.

Yesterday marked the first time jurors have heard from him directly. On topics ranging from his role in Watergate to the federal prison system, he delivered an earful.

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