LaRouche conspiracy trials

LaRouche conspiracy trials

In the mid-1980s, as the culmination of a series of federal and state investigations into the activities of American political activist Lyndon LaRouche and his associates, a number of criminal trials were held. There was a federal trial in Boston, Massachusetts, another in Alexandria, Virginia, and several state trials. While there were differences in the specific charges, the trials focused upon the allegation that LaRouche and his associates conspired to solicit loans from their supporters, on behalf of organizations they controlled, without intending to repay those loans.

LaRouche and his supporters disputed the charges. They asserted that the federal government deliberately imposed an involuntary bankruptcy on the debtor entities. They indicated that the bankruptcy caused them to be unable to repay the loans, which then paved the way for them to be prosecuted. They claimed that the trials were politically motivated.

The first federal trial, held in Boston, involved twelve defendants. A variety of delays, including searches of the files of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and Oliver North caused the trial to last for six months. The jurors hearing the case had been impaneled for eight months, and indicated to the judge that they were unwilling to continue for the three to six months of additional time that the judge estimated would be needed to complete the trial. The case ended in a mistrial.

A second federal trial on separate charges took place in Alexandria later the same year. Unlike the Boston case, the judge tried the case quickly. LaRouche himself was convicted of mail fraud in the case "United States of America v. Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. et al", while others associated with the movement received convictions for mail fraud, conspiracy, and tax evasion. LaRouche received a prison term of fifteen years, which began in 1989. He was paroled in 1994 after serving five years. Five of his associates were found guilty in the Virginia federal court trial, and sentenced from three to five years. Thirteen associates were found guilty in separate state trials in Virginia and New York, resulting in terms from one month to thirteen years. The Virginia state trials later were described as the highest-profile cases that the Attorney General's office ever had handled. []

Prosecution of LaRouche associates

Alexandria federal trial

As part of the trial in Alexandria, five of LaRouche's associates were also found guilty. His chief fund-raiser, William Wertz, was convicted on ten mail fraud counts. LaRouche's legal adviser and treasurer, Edward Spannaus, along with fundraising operatives Dennis Small, Paul Greenberg, Michael Billington, and Joyce Rubinstein, were convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Wertz and Spannaus were sentenced to five years imprisonment each, with Spannaus serving a total of two and a half years until his release from custody. Both were fined $10,000. [Cite news|pages = A.4|title = Court upholds convictions of LaRouche, 6 associates|work = Austin American Statesman|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1990-01-23] The others received three-year terms and various fines. [Cite news|issn = 04583035|pages = 1|title = LaRouche Gets 15 Years for Cheating His Backers, IRS 6 Aides Also Get Prison Terms, Fines|work = Los Angeles Times|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1989-01-27]

tate trials

The Attorney General of Virginia, Mary Sue Terry, prosecuted eight LaRouche associates on securities fraud charges relating to $30 million in loans. The first trials were in Leesburg, but later trials were held in the larger city of Roanoke. In order for the prosecutions to proceed, it was necessary to get a decision by the State Corporation Commission (SCC) that the loans solicited by LaRouche organizations were securities. Attorneys for the companies argued that a prohibition on raising funds through loans would violate their First Amendment rights. The SCC rejected that argument and decided, on March 4, 1987, that the promissory notes were securities. It ordered six LaRouche organizations-Fusion Energy Foundation Inc., Caucus Distributors Inc., Publication and General Management Inc., Campaigner Publications Inc., EIR News Service Inc. and Publication Equities Inc.-to stop their sale. [Cite news|pages = A-1|last = McKelway|first = Bill|title = SCC Enjoins LaRouche Groups|work = Richmond Times - Dispatch|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1987-03-05] Five other states had already issued injunctions, [Cite news|pages = B-8|last = McKelway|first = Bill|title = Briefs Filed In LaRouche Probe|work = Richmond Times - Dispatch|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1987-02-28] and 14 states eventually instituted similar injunctions. At least one injunction, by the State of Minnesota against Independent Democrats for LaRouche, was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which confirmed the lower court. [Cite news|issn = 07347456|pages = 06.a|title = U.S. Supreme Court;All-white jury acceptable in murder suit, court says|work = USA TODAY|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1989-01-10]

According to the Barbara Boyd, a LaRouche associate, "At the center of the Virginia prosecutions was the novel allegation by prosecutors, that political loans advanced for political programs and campaigns, were investment securities, subject to the securities registration and securities fraud provisions of state law. No court had ever declared this prior to the Virginia prosecutions." [Cite news| last = Boyd| first = Barbara| title = The Human Rights Issues in the Virginia LaRouche Cases| work = American Almanac| accessdate = 2008-10-12| date = 1998-08-10| url =] Boyd asserts that the SCC initially refused to issue a ruling that political loans were investment securities, and only later cooperated. The commissioner who gave the ruling, Elizabeth Lacy, was shortly thereafter nominated as Virginia's first woman Supreme Court Justice, and then refused to recuse herself from the case that had resulted from her decision. [Cite news| last = Boyd| first = Barbara| title = The Human Rights Issues in the Virginia LaRouche Cases| work = American Almanac| accessdate = 2008-10-12| date = 1998-08-10| url =]

Six of LaRouche associates were convicted and two pleaded guilty. [Cite news|pages = A-12|last = Terry|first = Mary Sue|title = Attorney General Responds To Editorial|work = Richmond Times - Dispatch|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1991-12-21] Rochelle Ascher, a fundraiser, was sentenced in Leesburg to 86 years (reduced to 10 years) for six charges of fraudulently selling securities and one count each of selling an unregistered security with intent to defraud, selling a security by an unregistered agent with intent to defraud, and conspiracy to commit security fraud. [Cite news|last = J. Brazaitis|first = Thomas|title = Convicted LaRouche aide won't renounce his leader|work = The Plain Dealer|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1991-07-05] [Cite news|pages = 27|last = United Press International |title = Jury Convicts Fund-Raiser For LaRouche|work = Richmond Times - Dispatch|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1989-04-06]

In two Roanoke trials, four other associates were found guilty of securities fraud charges: Donald Phau, [Cite news|issn = 01908286|pages = b.04|title = LaRouche Aide Is Convicted|work = The Washington Post|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1990-02-02] Lawrence Hecht, Paul Gallagher, and Anita Gallagher. [Cite news|issn = 01908286|pages = d.02|last = Bates|first = Steve|title = 3 More LaRouche Supporters Guilty of Fraud; Convictions in Securities Case Now Total 8; 8 Others Await Trial|work = The Washington Post|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1991-01-08] Richard Welsh and Martha M. Quinde pleaded guilty and received 12 month and one month terms, respectively. [Cite news|issn = 01908286|pages = d.04|title = Judge Rejects LaRouche Allegation|work = The Washington Post|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1990-05-30] Michael Billington was charged in a Roanoke court with having solicited 131 loans totaling $1.24 million from 85 people even when he knew that the loans would not be repaid. [Cite news|last=AP|title =Jury Convicts Top Larouche Fund-Raiser Of Securities Fraud|work =Daily Press|location=Newport News, Va.|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = Oct 25, 1989|page=B.5] Represented by a court-appointed lawyer, he rejected a plea bargain that would have limited his prison sentence to the three years he served in the federal case. [Cite news|last = J. Brazaitis|first = Thomas|coauthors = Plain Dealer Reporter|title = Convicted LaRouche aide won't renounce his leader|work = The Plain Dealer|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1991-07-05] According to Barbara Boyd, Billington's attorney had not prepared a defense, assuming that Billington would "cop a plea," and the judge refused to permit Billington to substitute a different attorney, despite the fact that one stood ready. [Cite news| last = Boyd| first = Barbara| title = The Human Rights Issues in the Virginia LaRouche Cases| work = American Almanac| accessdate = 2008-10-12| date = 1998-08-10| url =] His attorney, Brian Gettings, told the court that he believed LaRouche was making the decisions in the case rather than his client. [Cite news|pages = C-5|last = United Press International|title = LaRouche Associate Dismisses Attorney|work = Richmond Times - Dispatch|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1989-09-26] Billington was convicted on nine counts of "conspiracy to fail to register as a securities broker." Virginia's court system has the juries determine prison terms though judges may override them. The jury in his case recommended 77 years (out of a possible 90), and the judge refused to lower it because Billington continued to insist upon his innocence (which the judge deemed lack of remorse,) and because he had warned that he would accept the recommendation if Billington requested a jury trial. Billington served a total of ten years in prison before being released on parole. The lead prosecutor said the case involved, "willful and massive fraud that has caused a lot of people to suffer". [Cite news|pages = B-3|last = wiredispatches|first = From|title = LaRouche Fund-Raiser Convicted|work = Richmond Times - Dispatch|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1989-10-25]

A trial in New York state courts on charges of scheming to defraud resulted in the conviction of Robert Primack, Marielle Kronberg, and Lynne Speed. [Cite news|pages = A-2|last = Press United International|title = 3 LaRouche Workers Are Convicted Of Fraud|work = Richmond Times - Dispatch|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1989-09-01]


Beginning as early as 1986, LaRouche-related lawyers made numerous appeals of court decisions. The contempt of court fines from the Boston grand jury were appealed. On July 3, 1986, the First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the fines. [Cite news|issn = 07431791|pages = 46|last = Doherty|first = William F.|title = Fines For LaRouche Groups Upheld|work = Boston Globe|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1986-07-04] It was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, who let the decision stand. [Cite news|issn = 03624331|pages = A.21|last = Greenhouse|first = Linda |title = Supreme Court Roundup; Justices Agree To Hear Plea On Miranda|work = New York Times|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1989-10-17]

When the Boston case ended in mistrial, LaRouche lawyers appealed the decision to retry the case. In their appeal, heard October 5, 1988, they argued that a retrial would violate double jeopardy. [Cite news|pages = C-06|title = New LaRouche trial would violate defendants' rights, lawyer argues|work = Providence Journal|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1988-10-06] Following the convictions in the Alexandria court, prosecutors moved to dismiss the charges from the Boston court, cancelling the retrial. [Cite news|issn = 07431791|pages = 58|first = AP|title = No LaRouche Trial, Rules Federal Judge|work = Boston Globe|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1989-03-03] The LaRouche lawyers appealed that decision on March 13, 1989, arguing that they needed the trial to exonerate LaRouche. "My imprisonment is the American Dreyfus case", LaRouche said in a January 1989 interview from prison. The prosecutor denied claims of a conspiracy, describing the theory as an "Orwellian fantasy ... that we are hiding some supersecret spy plot which, if exposed, would exonerate them." [Cite news|issn = 07431791|pages = 22|last = Neuffer|first = Elizabeth |title = LaRouche Mounts Last-Ditch Bid For Hub Retrial|work = Boston Globe|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1989-03-22]

A 1989 appeal filed by the LaRouche defendants argued that, due to the motion "in limine" granted by Judge Bryan in the Virginia case, the jury never heard the two central features of LaRouche's actual defense: first, the long history of "adversive government actions" against the LaRouche organization, and second, that the government, through the involuntary bankruptcy and related actions, had "intentionally... subverted their ability to raise funds and pay their debts." [Brief for the appellants, No. 89-5518, May 25, 1989, published in Citation|editor-last = Spannous | editor-first = Edward| publisher = Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations| year = 1989 | title = Railroad!|oclc=23870104|p=] In the pro-defense book "Railroad!" the authors write "...the judge invaded the province of the jury, preventing the jurors from hearing the facts which would enable them to competently determine the question of criminal intention." [Citation|editor-last = Spannous | editor-first = Edward| publisher = Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations| year = 1989 | title = Railroad!|oclc=23870104|p=9]

LaRouche's attorneys claimed the investigations of LaRouche and his organization began in the 1960s as part of COINTELPRO, and "culminated in an intense 5-year program by what may be characterized as a national multi-agency 'Get LaRouche' task force." [Appeal, "United States of America vs. Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. et al No. 89-5518", published in Citation|editor-last = Spannous | editor-first = Edward| publisher = Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations| year = 1989 | title = Railroad!|oclc=23870104|p=] According to the appeal, the task force included both Criminal and Tax divisions of the U.S. Department of Justice, The U.S. Attorney's Office in Alexandria, the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, IRS, U.S. Postal Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Virginia Attorney General's office, Virginia State Corporation Commission, and the Loudon County Sheriff's office. LaRouche's attorneys claimed on appeal that the lower court's decision on their "in limine" prevented them from presenting their defense, that being that the LaRouche organization no longer controlled the indebted entities, and that the decision not to repay debts was made by government trustees. This appeal was rejected. [cite court |litigants = UNITED STATES of AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Lyndon H. LAROUCHE, Jr.; William F. Wertz, Jr.; Edward W. Spannaus, Defendants-Appellants |vol = 4 F.3d 987 |reporter = |opinion = |pinpoint = |court = United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit |date = 1993-09-13 |url= ]

Numerous "amicus curiae" ("friend of the court") briefs were filed on appeal. One by Albert Bleckmann, director of the Institute for Public Law and Political Sciences at the University of Muenster, raised further objections to the lack of "voir dire", the exclusion of evidence under the motion "in limine", the fact that the government did not approach LaRouche about his tax situation before indicting him for tax violations, and concerns about double jeopardy because of the nearly identical charges in the Boston and Alexandria trials. ["United States of America vs. Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. et al, Brief of Prof. Dr. Albert Bleckmann, Amicus Curiea, No. 89-5518", published in Citation|editor-last = Spannous | editor-first = Edward| publisher = Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations| year = 1989 | title = Railroad!|oclc=23870104|p=] A similar brief was filed by over 100 American attorneys, and raised the additional issue of possible violation of Sixth Amendment rights due to a rush to trial. ["United States of America vs. Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. et al, Brief of R. David Pembroke et al., Amici Curiea, No. 89-5518", published in Citation|editor-last = Spannous | editor-first = Edward| publisher = Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations| year = 1989 | title = Railroad!|oclc=23870104|p=] ] Others raised the issue that non-payment of loans is not a criminal offense, but had been made one through politically motivated misuse of conspiracy laws, ["United States of America vs. Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. et al, Brief of Lennart Hane, Amicus Curiea, No. 89-5518". Lennart Hane is a Swedish attorney and author of "Smygande Diktatur (Creeping Dictatorship).", published in Citation|editor-last = Spannous | editor-first = Edward| publisher = Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations| year = 1989 | title = Railroad!|oclc=23870104|p=] and that more generally, a "crime of thought seems to have been camouflaged as a common law crime." ["United States of America vs. Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. et al, Brief of Maitre Jacques Stul, Amicus Curiea, No. 89-5518", published in Citation|editor-last = Spannous | editor-first = Edward| publisher = Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations| year = 1989 | title = Railroad!|oclc=23870104|p= Stul is a French attorney who specializes in political causes.]

On July 3, 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected without comment an appeal by LaRouche and his six co-defendants that claimed the Alexandria court had tried to silence them. [Cite news|last=|title =Supreme Court to Weigh First 'Right-to-Die' Case|work =Newsday|location=|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = July 4, 1989|page=]

A three-judge panel of Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously confirmed the Alexandria convictions on January 23, 1990, [Cite news|issn = 03624331|pages = A.21|first = AP|title = Appeals Court Upholds Convictions of LaRouche and Four Others|work = New York Times|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1990-01-23] They found that the defense had not asked for a continuance in a timely manner, had not indicated that significant flaws in the case were due to lack of time, and had not pressed jurors about their knowledge of LaRouche. [Cite news| issn = 01908286| pages = a.08| last = Howe| first = Robert F.| title = Appeals Court Upholds LaRouche Conviction on Mail Fraud, Conspiracy| work = The Washington Post| accessdate = 2008-10-11| date = 1990-01-23] Five months later the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case. [Cite news|issn = 01908286|pages = b.04|title = Supreme Court Upholds LaRouche Convictions|work = The Washington Post|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1990-06-12|=url=]

Claims of LaRouche supporters

The convictions of LaRouche and his associates were a defining moment in the history of the LaRouche network. LaRouche supporters and others, including hundreds of elected officials from the U.S. and other countries, insisted that LaRouche was jailed, not for any violation of the law, but for his beliefs (see attempts at exoneration.)LaRouche also alleged systematic government misconduct:

The record shows, that for nearly thirty years, elements of the U.S. Department of Justice have been engaged in world-wide political targeting of me and my associates. This includes early 1970s operations run in conjunction with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger's U.S. State Department. During the last ten years or so of that period, some U.S. officials, and others, have challenged the relevant agencies with some of the evidence which shows, that those prosecutions and correlated harassment of me and my associates, had been clearly fraudulent, politically motivated targeting. [Cite web| title = Schiller Institute--LaRouche—Bad Guy, But We Can't Say Why| accessdate = 2008-10-12| url =]
LaRouche and his lawyers asserted that the Anti-Defamation League sought to destroy his organization, and that the prosecution was the result of a conspiracy between the ADL, the government, and the media. [Cite news|issn = 01908286|pages = a.42|last = Howard|first = Alison|title = Lyndon LaRouche Leaves Prison to Testify for Fund-Raiser|work = The Washington Post|accessdate = 2008-10-04|date = 1990-05-24] This claim stems from a series of meetings that LaRouche publications refer to as the John Train "Salon". [Cite web| title = Schiller Institute--Introduction: Has your neighbor been brainwashed about Lyndon LaRouche?| accessdate = 2008-10-11| url =]

In testimony to submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 13, 1998, the LaRouche-affiliated Schiller Institute claimed that " [t] he inability to repay lenders and other crediters [sic] was the consequence of an unprecedented involuntary bankruptcy proceeding initiated by the Justice Department against those companies in 1987, initiated in an "ex parte", "in camera" proceeding." [Cite web| title = Testimony Of The Schiller Institute Submitted To The Committee On The Judiciary, UnitedStates Senate| work = American Almanac| accessdate = 2008-10-12| date = 1998-07-13| url =]

Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte, a professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Mainz in Germany, compared the LaRouche trial to the Dreyfus affair, which he called "a classical example of a political trial". He wrote, "Just as LaRouche was, the French Capt. Alfred Dreyfus was deprived by the structure of the trial procedures, of any opportunity to prove his innocence, and facts critical for his defense were excluded from the trial." [This paragraph is excerpted from a longer essay by von der Heydte, which appeared as a full page ad, sponsored by the LaRouche-affiliated Commission to investigate Human Rights Violations, in the "Washington Times" on March 1, 1990, in the "Loudoun Times-Mirror" of Loudon County, Virginia on March 2, and as a half-page ad in the "Washington Post" on March 3. Re-printed in Citation|editor-last = Spannous | editor-first = Edward| publisher = Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations| year = 1989 | title = Railroad!|oclc=23870104|p=]

Attempts at exoneration

On November 8, 1991, Angelo Vidal d'Almeida Ribeiro, the Special Rapporteur for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, filed a request to the U.S. Government based on a complaint that had been filed concerning the LaRouche case. The U.S. government responded by saying that LaRouche had been given due process under the laws of the United States. The U.N. Commission took no further action. [Cite web | last = Angelo Vidal d'Almeida Ribeiro | title = Report by the Special Rapporteur| work = United Nations| accessdate = 2008-10-11| date = 1986-03-10| url =]

One of LaRouche's appeals attorneys was former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. In a 1995 letter to then-Attorney General Janet Reno, he said that the case involved "a broader range of deliberate and systematic misconduct and abuse of power over a longer period of time in an effort to destroy a political movement and leader, than any other federal prosecution in my time or to my knowledge." He asserted that, "The government, ex parte, sought and received an order effectively closing the doors of these publishing businesses, all of which were involved in First Amendment activities, effectively preventing the further repayment of their debts." [Cite web| last = Clark| first = Ramsey | title = Letter from former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clarkto Attorney General Janet Reno | work = LaRouche in 2004| accessdate = 2008-10-11| date = 1995-04-26| url =]

The LaRouche organization organized several panels of sympathetic legal experts, elected officials and journalists from other countries, to have them review the case and issue their findings. These included the Curtis Clark Commission, [Cite web| title = The Curtis Clark Commission Findings:Exonerate Lyndon LaRouche | accessdate = 2008-10-11| date = 1994-09-03| url =] and the Mann-Chestnut hearings. [Cite web| title = STATEMENT OF MANN-CHESTNUT COMMISSION: Schiller Institute Press Release| accessdate = 2008-10-11| url =]

On September 18, 1996, a full-page advertisement appeared in the "New Federalist", a LaRouche publication, as well as the "Washington Post" and "Roll Call". Entitled "Officials Call for LaRouche's Exoneration" its signatories included Arturo Frondizi, former President of Argentina; figures from the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement such as Amelia Boynton Robinson, James Bevel, and Rosa Parks; former Minnesota Senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate Eugene McCarthy; Mervyn M. Dymally, who chaired the Congressional Black Caucus; and artists such as classical vocalist William Warfield, and violinist Norbert Brainin, former 1st Violin of the Amadeus Quartet. [Cite web| title = Exonerate LaRouche| accessdate = 2008-10-11| url =]


External links

* [ "Washington Post" January 13, 1985 article on LaRouche mansion and unusual lifestyle]
* [ Transcript of sentencing proceedings - Alexandria, Va., January 27, 1989]
* [ "Washington Post" 12/23/90 article on elderly seeking repayment of loans]
* [ "Why Lyndon LaRouche is in Jail"] "transcript of a national broadcast paid for by LaRouche's presidential campaign in 1992"
* [ "The World's Most Expensive Glass of Sherry,"] Chap. 33 from Dennis King's "Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism"
* [ Summary of the LaRouche cases] on a LaRouche-affiliated site
* [ "The John Train Salon Delivered Perjured Testimony in the 'Get LaRouche' Trials,"] "Executive Intelligence Review" website
* [ "The John Train Salon and the Evidence of Criminal Fraud Filed With the Fourth Circuit Court,"] "Executive Intelligence Review" website

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