President Ronald Reagan personally approved a "non-negotiable" plea bargain offered to former Philippines President Ferdinand E. Marcos and his wife, Imelda, three days before they were indicted last October, according to an affidavit filed in federal court in Manhattan.
Defense lawyers for the Marcoses met at the Justice Department in Washington with government prosecutors, including U.S. Atty. Gen. Dick Thornburgh, who advised them that President Reagan knew the conference was taking place, an affidavit by Richard A. Hibey, Imelda Marcos' attorney, said.
The outline of the plea bargain, which became known last year, would have required the ousted Philippines leader and his wife to forfeit millions of dollars worth of real estate and other valuable goods, including art objects, in exchange for not facing a prison term. The proposal was rejected, and the Marcoses were then indicted for illegally moving more than $100 million out of the Philippines treasury to the United States.
In the filing last month, Hibey said that the plea bargain meeting began Oct. 18, 1988, with Thornburgh advising that "the President was aware that the meeting was taking place, and what would be conveyed to us during the conference had the President's full knowledge and approval."
Thornburgh then told the lawyers to "seriously consider" the proposal that was to be made.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, then U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who was prosecuting the Marcos case, "described a non-negotiable proposal with respect to the disposition of the proposed charges," the court papers said.
Former prosecutor Giuliani, who now is the Republican and Liberal Party candidate for mayor of New York City, said that the government intended to present its case to a grand jury unless the offer was accepted by the close of business on Oct. 20, 1988.
The existence of the 48-hour deadline was reported by the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 21, 1988. The Times disclosed also that President Reagan had decided not to intervene to prevent the indictment.
At the time, however, Reagan was publicly insisting that he might not have any role in the Marcos indictment issue. In responding to questions at a Rose Garden ceremony after the plea-bargain meeting, Reagan said: "It is something that may not come to my desk at all."
He said the matter would not reach him unless it related to foreign policy and "not just some legal technicality."
Reagan's spokesman, Mark Weinberg, told the Associated Press on Monday that he would not comment on the Marcos case because it is pending in the courts.
On Oct. 21, 1988, the grand jury indicted both Marcoses. Marcos died in Hawaii last Sept. 28. Mrs. Marcos and other co-defendants, including Saudi financier Adnan Khashoggi, are scheduled to go to trial here next March 14.
Hibey's affidavit was filed in connection with a pretrial motion seeking thousands of confidential federal documents Imelda Marcos needs in her defense.
In Washington, David Runkel, special assistant to Thornburgh declined to comment specifically on the case Monday.
"When you have a case with international aspects, it is not unusual to have coordination and discussions with other agencies within the government, including the White House, and it is not unusual in such cases for the attorney general to involve himself," Runkel said, speaking generally.
Also attending the October, 1988, meeting at the Justice Department was Charles LaBella, the assistant U.S. attorney who is prosecuting the Marcos case. LaBella also declined to comment Monday on the affidavit.
In a separate part of the court papers, John Bartko, another lawyer for Imelda Marcos who also was at the Justice Department meeting, said defense lawyers were seeking documents that might show that the United States had prior knowledge that the Marcoses had assets other than those named in the indictment, or that the United States had participated in the overthrow of the Philippines leader's government.
Staff writers Robert L. Jackson in Washington and William C. Rempel in Los Angeles contributed to this story.