THE SENTENCING OF OLIVER L. NORTH : TEXT: ‘This Was Morally Wrong . . . It Was Against Your Faith . . . ‘

Here is the text of the statement Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell when he sentenced Oliver L. North:

As I explain my sentence to you now I think you will see that--I hope you’ll see that I am taking into account many of the matters that your lawyer and you have brought to my attention today. I hope you will also see that perhaps I place a greater value because of the nature of my job upon some aspects of the situation that brings you here than you yet have had an opportunity in the midst of all this turmoil to fully appreciate.

I can assure you, Col. North, that I’m going to take into full consideration the important fact that before you came to the White House you had served your country with distinction in the highest traditions of the Marine Corps. And the court is not going to overlook that there were major matters of military and quasi-military nature which you performed, again with the highest distinction at great personal risk to yourself after you came to the White House. But I’m sure you realize that this case has little to do with your military behavior, commitment or expertise.

Point Man in Power Play


The indictment involves your participation in particular covert events. I do not think that in this area you were a leader at all, but really a low-ranking subordinate working to carry out initiatives of a few cynical superiors. You came to be the point man in a very complex power play developed by higher-ups. Whether it was because of the excitement and the challenge or because of conviction, you responded certainly willingly and sometimes even excessively to their requirements.

And along the way you came to accept, it seems to me, the mistaken view that Congress couldn’t be trusted and that the fate of the country was better left to a small inside group, not elected by the people, who were free to act as they chose while publicly professing to act differently. Thus you became and by a series of circumstances in fact and I believe in your mind part of a scheme that reflected a total distrust in some constitutional values.

Now, a trial is a very extraordinary thing. As you stand there now you’re not the fall guy for this tragic breach of the public trust. The jury composed of everyday citizens your supporters mocked and mocked throughout the trial understood what was taking place. Observing that many others involved in the events were escaping without censor or with prosecutorial promises of leniency or immunities they used their common sense. And they gave you the benefit of a reasonable doubt.

You’re here now because of your own conduct when the truth was coming out. Apparently you could not face disclosure and decided to protect yourself and others. You destroyed evidence, altered and removed official documents, created false papers after the events to keep Congress and others from finding out what was happening.


Not a Patriotic Act

Now, I believe that you know this was morally wrong. It was against your bringing up. It was against your faith. It was against all of your training. Under the stress of the moment it was easier to choose the role of a martyr but that wasn’t a heroic, patriotic act nor was it in the public interest.

You have had great remorse for your family and understandably so. It is often the tragic part of what happens when mistakes are made. I believe you still lack full understanding, however, of how the public service has been tarnished. Nonetheless, what you believe is your own business and jail would only harden your misconceptions. Given the many highly commendable aspects of your life your punishment will not include jail. Indeed, community service may in the end make you more conscious of certain values which at times you and your associates appear to have overlooked in the elite isolation of the White House.

Your notoriety has caused many difficulties but it has also made you a rich man. And where you go from here is up to you, as I see it. You can continue to flame the myth by which you have supported yourself during these recent difficult years or you can turn around now and do something useful.


Duty of Sentence

I fashioned a sentence that punishes you. It is my duty to do that. But it leaves the future up to you.

This is the sentence of the court. On count six where you are found guilty of aiding and abetting, obstruction of Congress, I’m going to impose a sentence of three years and suspend the execution of the sentence, place you on probation for two years, fine you $100,000 and I have to impose a special assessment of $50.

Under count nine, altering, removing and destroying the permanent historical records of the National Security Council I impose a sentence of two years, suspend the execution of sentence, place you on probation for two years, fine you $35,000 and impose a special assessment of $50 and I am required by the statute to impose another mandatory penalty. You are hereby disqualified from holding any office under the United States.


Under count 10, receiving an illegal gratuity, I’ll impose a sentence of one year, suspend the execution of that sentence, place you on probation for two years, fine you $15,000 and impose a special assessment again of $50. These sentences and the probation are to run concurrently. The fines are to run consecutively.

Your probation shall consist in addition to the normal requirements of community service in a total amount of 1,200 (hours), 800 the first year and 400 the second year and you will remain under the supervision of the District of Columbia probation officer who is familiar with your situation and who has prepared the pre-sentence report.

I want to talk to you about the community service. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. I want the community to get the benefit of your organizational and administrative skills which are very very high.

I believe, as your counsel has indicated, that you are a caring person. And this community service I’m putting before you like many aspects of this case is unique. There is a model program to be tested in the District of Columbia, fully financed and in the final formative stages at the present time. It involves a program of counseling, training and educating and, where necessary, providing after-care for District of Columbia inner city youths, most of whom are living in public housing surrounded by the drug culture.


Opportunity for Future

The work will involve no fund-raising, no public speaking but a very complex administrative task of coordinating various private and D.C. resources in a program targeted to see if we can’t stop the scourge of drugs that hits the young people of this city. And I’m asking you and directing that you participate in that program and give it your administrative skills, your organizational skills and if it succeeds, as I believe and hope it will, people are already selecting the candidates for that service in the inner city itself, it gives you an opportunity, I think, a sense of fulfillment and a chance to start something good and wholesome for the future.

That sentence in simple terms, I’ve had to give it to you in complex form because of the nature of the way the law has developed, but what it comes down to is that you have a three-year suspended sentence, you’re on probation for a period of two years. You will have to devote 1,200 hours to the community service I’ve indicated. You have to pay $150 in special assessments. You’re fined a total of $150,000 and you are disqualified from holding office under the United States.

That is the sentence of the court.