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Lewis Loses Bid to Keep Jury Transcript Sealed

Times Staff Writer

A state appellate court Thursday rejected an effort by Assemblyman John R. Lewis (R-Orange) to keep sealed the transcript of grand jury proceedings that led to his indictment concerning his role in forging Ronald Reagan’s name on campaign letters mailed in 1986.

As a result of the action by a three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal, the 350-page transcript is expected to be made public today.

On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge James Morris ordered the release of the transcript but gave Lewis time to appeal that ruling. Clyde Blackmon, Lewis’ lawyer, argued in the appeal that if the document were made public it could “infect and inflame” potential jurors in the case.

Blackmon said Thursday that he was “disappointed” that the Court of Appeal rejected his motion, adding that it was extremely unlikely that he could appeal the matter to the state Supreme Court before the transcript is scheduled to be made public.

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The document could be politically embarrassing, if not damaging, because it contains the sworn testimony of several Republican aides, political consultants and direct mail specialists.

Lewis was indicted Feb. 6 on one count of forgery for his role in mailing thousands of campaign letters in 1986 that bore the phony signature of then-President Reagan. After the letters were mailed on behalf of six Republican candidates, the White House denied that the endorsements were authorized by Reagan or his staff.

Underscoring the sensitivity of the transcript, Henry Olsen, a former GOP legislative staffer who testified before the grand jury, on Thursday urged Judge Morris to keep the transcript sealed because it was potentially damaging to him. The judge rejected his appeal.

Christopher H. Wing, Olsen’s lawyer, argued that his client’s privacy would be invaded by the release of the transcript. Olsen, who once worked in Lewis’ office, is now a law student at the University of Chicago.

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