Secord Gets Probation, Calls Reagan Cowardly : Iran-Contra: The former general admits he misled Congress. The judge decides prison would be too harsh.


Richard V. Secord, who ran the shadowy enterprise set up to channel money from Iran arms sales to the Contras in Nicaragua, was sentenced to two years’ probation Wednesday.

The former Air Force major general faced up to five years in jail, but U.S. District Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. said that prison would be too harsh a punishment.

Secord pleaded guilty to one felony count of misleading Congress as part of a plea bargain that resulted in the dismissal of 11 other charges. Also, Robinson ordered Secord to pay a fee of $50, the minimum required for all defendants who plead guilty in federal court.


Robinson said it was his judgment that there had already “been punishment in this case,” an apparent reference to Secord’s contention that he had spent a great deal of his own funds for his defense and has been unemployed in the two years since being charged.

Hours after he left the courtroom, an unrepentant and defiant Secord called a press conference to announce a nationwide fund-raising campaign to challenge the constitutionality of the independent counsel system that prosecuted him and seven others in the Iran-Contra scandal.

In addition, he berated former President Ronald Reagan, calling him a coward who ducked responsibility for the consequences of a covert program initiated to support Reagan’s own foreign policy.

“I’ve been involved in this witch hunt for too long to stop now,” he said. “It is not in my nature. I am trying to shift over a little bit . . . from the defense to the offense.”

Secord’s two years of probation was the same as the penalty imposed on Iran-Contra defendants sentenced previously. However, former White House National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane was also fined $20,000 and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. And former Lt. Col. Oliver L. North was fined $150,000 and ordered to perform 1,200 hours of service.

North was convicted of three crimes, including aiding and abetting an obstruction of Congress, altering and destroying National Security Council documents and accepting an illegal gratuity from Secord, a home security system. McFarlane pleaded guilty to four counts of withholding information from Congress in connection with inquiries about whether secret assistance was going to the Contras.


Secord sounded contrite when he addressed Robinson just before the judge imposed sentence. “I deeply regret not having been more candid with the investigators of the Congress,” he told the judge. “If there was any way to correct this, I surely would. I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.”

He pleaded guilty to telling congressional investigators he was unaware that any money in the Iran-Contra affair had benefited North personally. Secord paid for North’s $13,800 home security system and established a fund for the education of North’s children with proceeds of his Iran-Contra enterprise.

The 11 counts that were dismissed as a result of the plea bargain included broad charges of conspiracy, theft of government property, mail fraud and perjury.

In imposing sentence, Robinson said: “The necessity for incarceration does not exist by virtue of the offense for which he was permitted to enter a plea of guilty.”

At his press conference, Secord insisted that his answers to investigators had been literally true, but misleading. He admitted that he knew what the investigators wanted to know and should have leveled with them because, if he had, “I would have avoided all of this.”

But he expressed no regrets for his part in the covert operation that sent overpriced weapons to Iran and diverted the proceeds into a fund for the Contras at a time when U.S. law prohibited the expenditure of public funds to support the Nicaraguan rebels.


“I don’t think there was anything illegal going on,” he said. “I thought at the time I was doing the President’s bidding in a covert operation.”

Reid H. Weingarten, the prosecutor who handled the case for independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh, urged Robinson to sentence Secord more harshly than McFarlane or North, who he said had acted out of a sense of “misguided patriotism.”

He said Secord misled investigators only to save his own skin. “This is the stuff of routine felonies,” Weingarten said.

The charge of misleading Congress was similar to the one brought against former Atty. Gen. Richard G. Kleindienst for his part in the Watergate scandal 15 years ago. In 1974, Kleindienst was sentenced to a suspended one-month jail term and a $100 fine.

Rita Lavelle, a former Environmental Protection Agency official, was sentenced in 1984 to six months in prison and fined $10,000 for lying to Congress about the Superfund toxic-waste cleanup program.

In a more recent case, Michael K. Deaver, former President Reagan’s close friend and adviser, was given a suspended three-year sentence in 1988 for three counts of lying to Congress and a grand jury about using his influence on behalf of high-paying private clients after leaving office. Deaver was also ordered to perform 1,500 hours of community service and fined $100,000.


At his press conference, Secord said he intended to raise money to sponsor a new test of the constitutionality of the Watergate-era law that calls for the appointment of independent counsels to prosecute government corruption cases in which the Justice Department might have a conflict of interest.

He conceded that the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that the statute is constitutional, but he said the issue must be “readdressed and readdressed until favorable rulings can be had.”

Secord said he believes that the money left from his now-defunct Iran-Contra enterprise is “something over $8 million.” Although some is in Swiss bank accounts, he said that he is uncertain about the exact location of some of the funds.

During hearings two years ago, members of Congress suggested that the money be reclaimed by the United States, but the government has taken no official actions to regain the funds. Secord insisted that he would not claim them either and said he has already collected “something over $240,000” in fees for his services in running the business side of the Iran-Contra scheme.

Secord said he has no evidence that President Bush played a role in the scandal. But he was bitter about Reagan and former Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III.

“I think President Reagan has been hiding out,” he said. “I think it’s cowardly.”

As for Meese, Secord said that the former attorney general disclosed to the press the diversion of funds to the Contras and called for an independent counsel “in panic and out of ignorance . . . . He had all of his facts wrong.”


THE PRICE OF MISLEADING CONGRESS Iran-Contra defendants: Richard V. Secord--retired Air Force major general. Case: Pleaded guilty to making a false statement to congressional investigators when he said he wasn’t aware of any money that went to the benefit of Oliver L. North from the maze of companies known as “the Enterprise” that he had used in the Iran-Contra affair. Sentence: On Wednesday, he was sentenced to two years’ probation and was asessed a $50 fee. Oliver L. North--former National Security Council aide. Case: Found guilty by a jury of three felonies--aiding and abetting the obstruction of Congress, destroying official documents and accepting an illegal gratuity. Sentence: 1989--two years’ probation, fined $150,000 and ordered to perform 1,200 hours of community service. Appealing fine and probation while serving the community service in an anti-drug program. Robert C. McFarlane--former national security adviser. Case: Pleaded guilty to four misdemeanors involving withholding information from Congress while helping move supplies to the Nicaraguan rebels and denying that he knew anything about third-country financing of the Contras. Sentence: 1988--two years’ probation, fined $20,000 and ordered to serve 200 hours of community service. Defendants in other cases: Richard G. Kleindienst--former attorney general. Case: Pleaded guilty in a Watergate-related case to a misdemeanor charge of not having testified accurately in Senate confirmation hearing. Sentence: 1974--suspended one-month jail term and $100 fine. Rita Lavelle--former Environmental Protection Agency official. Case: Convicted on four counts in connection with lying to Congress about her handling of the government’s $1.6-billion toxic waste cleanup. Sentence: 1984--six months in prison and fined $10,000. She was released from prison after serving four months. Michael K. Deaver--former adviser to President Ronald Reagan. Case: Convicted of lying to a House committee about lobbying for big companies after leaving the White House. Sentence: 1988--suspended three-year sentence, fined $100,000 and ordered to do 1,500 hours of community service in alcoholism programs.