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Jury Selection in Silberman Trial Delayed by Illnesses

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jury selection in Richard T. Silberman’s money-laundering trial was put on hold until next week because two of the prominent San Diego businessman’s defense attorneys became ill, the federal judge hearing the case announced Thursday.

After seating 28 potential jurors, U.S. District Judge J. Lawrence Irving said that formal interviews of that group by prosecutors and defense lawyers will resume Tuesday. By then, he said, defense lawyers James J. Brosnahan and Diane Amann are expected to recover from food poisoning.

The postponement occurred after Irving announced, out of the presence of potential jurors, that he was also putting off--until the end of the trial--prosecutors’ request to sanction Silberman for saying in a television interview that he was innocent of all charges.

Silberman, 61, who was a top aide to former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., faces seven felony charges. He is accused of laundering $300,000 that an undercover FBI agent characterized as the proceeds of Colombian drug trafficking.

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His trial, which began Tuesday, is expected to last six weeks. If convicted, Silberman could face up to 75 years in prison.

When jury selection resumed Thursday, Irving dismissed six potential jurors who indicated in a special questionnaire that they already had formed an opinion about the case and two who didn’t answer whether they had an opinion.

The judge also dismissed a number of other potential jurors who said they had thought about the case since Tuesday and decided that they also had formed opinions about it. It was not known what the opinions might be.

Jurors, who were cautioned Tuesday not to read newspaper stories or watch television accounts of the case, were not made aware in court of that prosecutors’ contention that Silberman should be found in contempt of court for talking about the case to NBC cameras.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Charles F. Gorder Jr. asked for sanctions Wednesday, saying Silberman’s comments violated a partial gag order imposed March 1. The order bars Silberman and the lawyers from talking about various matters, including the strength or weakness of either side’s case.

In the interview, which aired Tuesday on NBC’s San Diego affiliate, KNSD (Channel 39), Silberman said FBI agents and prosecutors had made a mistake by charging him, insisted he was innocent and predicted the jury would agree with him.

Irving said Thursday after reviewing a tape of the interview that, if Gorder wants to pursue the issue, the time to do it was after the trial, through a formal, written request for sanctions.

Before taking ill, Brosnahan told Irving that Silberman had a free-speech right to talk about his case, even if there was a gag order.

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