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Walsh Proposes Delay in North’s Conspiracy Trial

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Associated Press

The Iran-Contra prosecutor on Tuesday suggested postponing Oliver L. North’s trial on major conspiracy counts while he attempts to solve the problem of disclosing classified documents in court.

Independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh, conceding the “problems of public disclosure are formidable and the outlook discouraging,” urged the judge to consider trying North on 13 other charges before taking up the three counts stemming from the diversion of Iranian arms sale profits to the Nicaraguan rebels.

U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell indicated in an order issued later in the day that he would go along with Walsh’s suggestion. The order, which set procedures for next Monday’s closed hearing on classified documents, said the proceeding would focus only on the 13 other charges that Walsh contends are ready for trial.

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Trial Set for Sept. 20

In his pleading, Walsh said Gesell could still hold a trial--now set for Sept. 20--on all 16 counts against the former White House aide if he relaxes a July 8 order that the CIA and other intelligence agencies turn over highly classified documents for North’s defense.

Gesell has ruled that North needs the material to try to show that he acted with the understanding his activities were approved by higher authorities in the Reagan Administration.

Under the proposed procedure, “the intelligence agencies can continue the process of collecting and analyzing their documents to assure completion of any additional discovery ordered by the court,” Walsh said.

In the meantime, North could be tried on charges that he made false statements to Congress, obstructed justice by shredding documents, illegally accepted installation of a $13,800 security fence outside his home and pocketed $4,300 worth of travelers’ checks from the Contras.

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