Noriega Files for Dismissal of Drug Charges
Lawyers for Gen. Manuel A. Noriega filed a sealed motion today to dismiss drug charges against the Panamanian strongman. They denied prosecution charges that Noriega might be filing the document to “cut himself a deal” in a U.S. presidential election year.
“I am not engaging in any kind of political chicanery,” said Noriega lawyer Neal Sonnett of Miami. “We have important legal issues. Those are the only things we’re arguing. There is no political purpose to this motion at all.”
At the request of prosecutors, U.S. District Judge William M. Hoeveler ruled in July that the motion must be kept sealed.
“My concern is that Noriega would see this as an opportunity to put materials in there that could have some bearing on our elections and might use that as some sort of blackmail to cut himself a deal with the (U.S.) government,” prosecutor Richard Gregorie said.
Dole Raised Question
“I want to be sure that . . . this is not being used as some political tool to attempt to coerce the Administration into some sort of deal,” he said.
The issue came up during the 1988 presidential campaign of former candidate Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.). He raised the question of whether Noriega was on the CIA payroll in 1976 and 1977, when Vice President George Bush was the CIA’s chief.
Bush has acknowledged that he knew of allegations that Noriega was involved in the narcotics trade before drug indictments earlier this year in Miami and Tampa. But he said his first substantial information came from the indictments.
Noriega was indicted by two federal grand juries in Florida on Feb. 4 on drug trafficking charges. After top U.S. officials declared that Noriega should be ousted, Panamanian President Eric A. Delvalle fired Noriega. Noriega refused to step down, and Delvalle went into hiding.