Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who last spring asked the Justice Department to look into treatment of an adviser to Muhammad Ali, says that the department told him the Charlottesville, Va., attorney's civil rights were being adequately protected.
"I am satisfied," Hatch told the Deseret News. "As far as I am concerned, the matter is closed."Hatch and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including, Hatch said, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., asked the Justice Department in June to have its Office of Professional Responsibility investigate allegations that "bad blood" existed between federal prosecutors in Virginia and Richard M. Hirschfeld, a "deal maker" and adviser to Ali.
Hirschfeld complained that Susan L. Watt, an assistant U.S. attorney in Norfolk, Va., had leaked allegations from a grand jury derogatory to him.
Hatch and Sens. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and, according to Hatch, Kennedy and other members, received similar complaints about the Norfolk grand jury from Stephen A. Saltzburg, a University of Virginia law professor, and Jerris Leonard, a former U.S. assistant attorney general.
Saltzburg, a friend of Hirschfeld and Leonard, now in private practice, is Hirschfeld's lawyer. Despite both men's interest in the case, Hatch said, their reputations are such that "when we heard from men like that we felt we must ask that the charges be investigated."
Hatch, Thurmond and Specter brought the question up when Edward S.G. Dennis Jr. appeared before the committee as a nominee for assistant attorney general.
According to a transcript of the hearing, the three asked Dennis to have the Office of Professional Responsibility investigate allegations about the handling of the Norfolk grand jury.
Hatch said Hirschfeld "passed a lie-detector test, he is an eminent attorney, and from all that I know he is a very fine person."
"I would like you to follow up and give us a report on that . . . so that we know what in the world is going on there, because it does not appear to be proper to me," Hatch added.
"Anything that is appropriate," Thurmond interjected.
"We understand that," Hatch added.
Saltzburg had been recommended by Ali as someone the Justice Department might be interested in. Then Attorney-General Edwin Meese III interviewed him, and he was nominated and confirmed as assistant attorney general and head of the criminal division. He has ex-cused himself from any action regarding Hirschfeld's troubles with the department.
Saltzburg was quoted as regretting that a letter he wrote to another attorney on Hirschfeld's troubles had been sent without his knowledge to the senators.
In addition to taking an interest in Ali's adviser, Hatch sponsored a bill to permit federal defendants, like Ali, who are convicted through an error by the government that the United States admits, to seek recovery of damages.
Hatch said the bill, however, would not be voted on by the Senate this session.