The government announced Saturday that it has appointed a three-member team of legal veterans to head the prosecution of the federal drug-trafficking case against former Panamanian leader Gen. Manuel A. Noriega.
U.S. Atty. Dexter Lehtinen told reporters he will not personally prosecute the case, which is expected to take 18 months to prepare and at least two months to try.
Leading the prosecution will be Asst. U.S. Atty. Michael Sullivan, 42, the senior litigation counsel in the Southern District of Florida. He has 18 years' experience, Lehtinen said.
Joining Sullivan will be First Deputy Myles Malman, 43, the No. 3 prosecutor in Lehtinen's office, and Deputy U.S. Solicitor General William Bryson of the solicitor's office in Washington.
Noriega and 15 others are charged in a 12-count drug-trafficking indictment returned Feb. 4, 1988, by a federal grand jury in Miami. If convicted, Noriega faces a maximum penalty 145 years in prison and $1.1 million in fines.
He was indicted the same day by a grand jury in Tampa, Fla., with two others for allegedly arranging to smuggle nearly 1 million pounds of marijuana into the United States from 1982 to 1984.
Sullivan began working with the U.S. Attorney's office in Miami in 1971 and has been there ever since, except for two years when he headed the Miami Organized Crime Task Force.
Malman has been a federal prosecutor for 15 years and served for more than 10 years as one of six senior trial lawyers for New York County Dist. Atty. Robert Morgenthau. He led the prosecution in the conviction of members of the Cali, Colombia, cocaine cartel, a case that resulted in a federal undercover money-laundering investigation called Operation Swordfish.
Bryson, who for four years has supervised briefings and arguments in all federal criminal cases before the Supreme Court, will advise the prosecution team, Lehtinen said.
Lehtinen denied reports that officials in Washington did not want him to handle the case personally, saying the decision was his own.
"I don't want to be the individual who spends two months in court at trial and 18 months in preparation of the case," he said. "I'm happy I have not been ordered to do that. It is not reasonable to expect the U.S. attorney to personally try the case."