Former Housing and Urban Development aide Deborah Gore Dean arranged lucrative deals for developers that enriched her family and friends, providing $250,000 to former Atty. Gen. John Mitchell, prosecutors said Monday at the start of Dean’s influence-peddling trial.
But the lawyer defending Dean on 12 felony charges said that the former executive assistant to HUD Secretary Samuel R. Pierce Jr. during the Ronald Reagan Administration is innocent and that all her actions were taken at the behest of her boss.
“She didn’t lie, she didn’t cheat and she didn’t steal,” defense attorney Stephen Wehner told the jury of six men and six women.
Pierce, who has not been charged, is on the list of potential defense witnesses.
Dean is accused of conspiring to award housing projects to favored businessmen, accepting an illegal gratuity--a $4,000 check from a consultant--and lying to Congress.
In his opening statement, prosecutor Robert O’Neal said that Dean took steps that funneled $66 million worth of HUD work to various developers, and he called her an illustration of “power and how it can corrupt.”
Local public housing authorities were supposed to dole out HUD housing units, but the developers “bypassed this whole thing and went right here to the defendant” through hired consultants, O’Neal said.
In one instance, a Miami developer hired ex-Kentucky Gov. Louis (Louie) Nunn “and Louie went to John Mitchell,” O’Neal said. “What does Mitchell do? Mitchell goes to the defendant” and the developer got HUD work to remodel 293 apartment units.
Mitchell got $75,000 “for a few phone calls” on the deal, and an additional $175,000 for helping other developers and consultants, the prosecutor said.
At the time, Dean’s mother was living with Mitchell, a man “who Dean called Dad,” said the prosecutor. Mitchell, who died in 1988, had gone to prison in the Watergate scandal.