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North Appeals Conviction in Contra Affair

Times Staff Writer

Former White House aide Oliver L. North formally notified the federal court Tuesday that he is appealing his conviction and suspended sentence in the Iran-Contra case but did not immediately spell out the legal grounds for the appeal.

At the same time, North said in legal papers that he wants to begin promptly the 1,200-hour “community service” part of his sentence, which will involve working with inner-city District of Columbia youths who are regularly exposed to drugs.

In view of the leniency of the sentence imposed last week by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell, North’s appeal apparently is aimed at clearing his name, removing a ban on his holding federal office and avoiding the $150,000 fine Gesell imposed.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals generally takes one to two years to act. North may delay payment of the fine until the appellate process is exhausted, Gesell said Tuesday.

Last Wednesday, in declaring that North had acted “to carry out the initiatives of a few cynical superiors,” Gesell handed North a suspended three-year sentence and placed him on probation for two of those three years.

North’s attorneys said in their court filing that he wants to begin his community service before his appeal is acted upon because “we understand that the next 6 to 12 months is a critical start-up period during which the program could best use the assistance” of the retired Marine lieutenant colonel.

Gesell, in telling North last week that prison time “would only harden your misconceptions” about his past illegal conduct, said that he wants the community “to get the benefit of your organizational and administrative skills, which are very high.”

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Destruction of Documents

Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), a leading supporter of North, has told reporters that “the harshest penalty” for North is a prohibition against holding federal office because of his conviction in May on charges that he altered and destroyed top-secret government documents--one of three felony counts on which a jury found him guilty.

Dornan and other congressmen have urged a presidential pardon for North, partly to remove this prohibition. A successful appeal would accomplish the same result. North has been urged by some supporters to run for Congress.

North’s lawyers are expected to claim that Gesell infringed on North’s right to defend himself by limiting the evidence he could introduce at trial. Gesell established guidelines for classified material that could be used at trial under the 1980 Classified Information Procedures Act, a law that North’s attorneys have argued is unconstitutional.

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