A day after he claimed a double-barreled victory in Baltimore's federal court, G. Gordon Liddy came out blazing.
"What a sweet day it is," the Watergate conspirator boomed on his radio talk show yesterday - the morning after a federal judge threw out a $5.1 million defamation lawsuit against him and a jury showed sympathy for his fringe theory that sex, not politics, was behind the burglary.
"You just can't get better than that," said Liddy, who started his show with the sound of strafing gunfire and the pronouncement: "We have once again shot down John Dean."
At home in Baton Rouge, La., Ida "Maxie" Wells, who brought the lawsuit against Liddy, was not listening. She was, however, having a friend record the show. Just to keep tabs, she said, while she decides what to do next.
"What's frustrating about losing is, I was hoping it would maybe shut him up and keep other people from spinning out that theory - which is hogwash," said Wells, the former Democratic National Committee secretary who challenged Liddy's revisionist theory of Watergate and lost.
The three-week trial in U.S. District Court offered little more satisfaction to observers wondering what might be revealed in the first case to closely examine the reason for the June 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
The trial drew a steady stream of conspiracy theorists, history buffs and courthouse regulars, but when the case ended Thursday night, it still had not answered why the burglars went into the DNC offices, who was Deep Throat or any other Watergate mystery that persists nearly three decades after the scandal unfolded.
The jurors' note announcing they were deadlocked summed it up:
"No way we can reach a verdict," the nine-member panel wrote before Chief Judge J. Frederick Motz dismissed them. Later in the evening, he threw the case out altogether.
The case did offer some rare scenes, including Liddy's most extensive public testimony on the scandal that eventually led to the downfall of President Richard M. Nixon.
The former FBI agent and convicted felon turned character actor, lecturer and conservative talk-show host took the witness stand Monday and slipped into military mode.
"Liddy," he said, spelling the name for the record: "That's Lima, India, Delta, Delta, Yankee."
He went on to offer jurors his views on topics as wide-ranging as the principal players in the scandal to the story of how he came to own a Watergate hotel bathrobe.
That happened, Liddy said, in the early 1990s at the suggestion of one of the police officers who helped arrest the burglars inside the DNC two decades earlier.
"He said [to the hotel managers], `Come on, do you guys know how much publicity he's given this place?'" the 70-year-old Liddy recalled. "So, they gave me a bathrobe."
Wells' attorney David M. Dorsen responded: "You should have held out for more, Mr. Liddy."
The point of it all was to explore Liddy's version of the Watergate break-in. He believes the burglars in June 1972 hoped to find brochure-like photos of prostitutes that were kept in Wells' desk and used to arrange dates for visiting Democratic officials.
Liddy says former Nixon lawyer John W. Dean III orchestrated the break-in, hoping the burglars would recover compromising photos that could have linked his future wife to a call-girl ring.
Trial testimony included rumors about a link between the DNC and a Capitol Hill call-girl ring in which women operated with code names such as Shanghai, Green House Nymph, Candy Cane, and Clout, the name rumored to have been used for the woman who would become Maureen Biner Dean.
Wells and the Deans say the theory is a lie. But in his final ruling, Motz said the evidence in the case had raised enough questions about the conventional theory of the scandal that Liddy shouldn't be held liable for discussing his version of the events.
The tawdry rumors and revelations that made up the case left Motz, as he was forming his ruling, pointing to testimony about sexual conversations heard on a phone Wells frequently used.
"Clearly, these calls were about more than setting up dinner dates," Motz said. "They were about setting up dinner dates and what kind of sex was going to occur after that."
Could it have happened as Liddy describes?
"We'll never know," juror Bob Balazik, 50, of New Market said.
"It sure makes me more curious," said another juror, Jeri Carr, 35, of Reisterstown. "I think it's possible."
"All things have their time to come to an end," Motz said from the bench, dismissing the case for the second time in three years. "And in my judgment, this evening is the time for this case to come to an end - at least in this courtroom."
Wells, in an interview yesterday, said she has not decided whether she will file an appeal.