WASHINGTON -- Lance Wilson, a former PaineWebber Inc. vice president who was indicted in January on charges that he wrote false commitment letters to provide bond financing for federal housing projects, has asked the U.S. district court here to dismiss the government's case on procedural grounds.
Mr. Wilson's motion to dismiss or, alternatively, to reduce the charges against him was filed on Aug. 24 immediately after the House cited congressional immunity and refused to comply with a court subpoena of investigative documents. The House records stemmed from a year-long probe into abuses at the Reagan-era Housing and Urban Development Department.
The court should either compel the House subcommittee to deliver the subpoenaed documents, which could be helpful in defending Mr. Wilson against the government's charges, or dismiss the case, his attorneys argued.
Mr. Wilson, a chief of staff for HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce from 1981 to 1984 before joining PaineWebber, was a principal target of the investigation by the House Government Operations Committee's subcommittee on employment and housing in 1989 and 1990.
One highlight of the committee's widely publicized hearings was testimony provided by former HUD Deputy Secretary Dubois Gilliam that he obtained bribes from Mr. Wilson and others. He also said he consorted with Mr. Wilson and others in conspiracies to defraud the government by providing false documentation to obtain Urban Development Action Grants for housing projects.
Mr. Gilliam testified that Mr. Wilson provided him with false financial commitment letters on PaineWebber stationery, pledging the company to underwrite municipal bonds for housing projects in Florida and Texas in which Mr. Wilson had an interest. The financial commitment letters were needed to obtain HUD grants for the projects, but PaineWebber never underwrote any of the promised bonds.
Arlin Adams, the independent prosecutor appointed by the Justice Department in 1990 to pursue indictments of individuals in the so-called HUD scandal, charged Mr. Wilson in his January indictment with the same crimes that Mr. Gilliam alleged in his testimony, Mr. Wilson's lawyers pointed out in memorandums before the court.
Mr. Gilliam, who spoke under a grant a immunity before the House subcommittee, also is expected to be "the key witness" in the court case against Mr. Wilson and his two alleged co-conspirators, developer Leonard Briscoe and Nebraska attorney Maurice David Steier, the lawyers said.
"Dubois Gilliam's testimony before Congress was the jumping-off point for this prosecution," attorney Theodore V. Wells of Lowenstein, Sandler, Kohl, Fisher & Boylan, said in briefs on behalf of Mr. Wilson.
"We are not privy as to how ~closely aligned' the prosecution and the subcommittee have been," he said. "However, we know that the [Office of Independent Counsel] has premised its case to a great extent on the findings of the subcommittee."
Mr. Wilson's lawyer said there are indications that Mr. Gilliam's testimony before the subcommittee conflicted in part with information he provided to HUD's inspector general and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the criminal prosecution.
Thus, the subcommittee's unpublished interviews with Mr. Gilliam and other records which the House is withholding as immune "have established relevance and materiality to the case," he said.
The House subcommittee previously "cooperated" with prosecutor Adams by supplying him with some of its unpublished records, the briefs maintain, and should not be allowed to "selectively" invoke its privilege under the Constitution's speech and debate clause to avoid the court's subpoena.
The Constitution "confers only qualified immunity which must give way to a criminal defendant's rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, which guarantee that no person should be deprived of liberty without due process of law," the brief argues.
As an alternative to enforcing the subpoena or entirely dismissing the case, Mr. Wilson's attorneys also moved to reduce the charges against him.
In particular, they asked the court to dismiss the only count of bribery in the government's case against him. That charge alleges that Mr. Wilson provided Mr. Gilliam with "money and other things of value" in September 1986 in exchange for Mr. Gilliam's approval of grants for Mr. Wilson's projects.
Mr. Wilson's lawyers pointed out that the five-year statute of limitations for prosecution of federal crimes had expired in January with respect to any alleged act of bribery in 1986, and thus the charge should be dropped.
Another charge brought against Mr. Wilson -- allegedly conspiring to defraud the government from 1985 to 1990 in connection with a Florida housing deal -- also is outside of the independent counsel's purview, the briefs maintain. The independent counsel was appointed to investigate abuses that occurred in the Urban Development Action Grant program only between 1984 and 1988, they said.
In a final move, Mr. Wilson's attorneys asked the court to sever Mr. Wilson's case from the government's cases against Mr. Briscoe and Mr. Steier, which contain many more counts of bribery.
"The consolidation of the bribery counts, in which Mr. Wilson played no role, to the false statement allegations creates the danger that the bribery allegations will ~rub off' on Mr. Wilson," they said.
Mr. Briscoe and Mr. Steier have separately moved to either dismiss the cases against them on procedural grounds or sever the cases. The court on Aug. 7 had granted the government's motion to consolidate the three cases.
Prosecutor Adams is scheduled to respond to the briefs on Friday. A trial date has tentatively been scheduled for Sept. 22.