Hard-core Oliver North supporters from Miami's anti-communist Nicaraguan and Cuban communities on Saturday welcomed the man they still view as a hero despite his conviction in the Iran-Contra affair.
North was to speak Saturday night at a $100-per-person fund-raiser to pay legal bills from his 2 1/2-year battle against charges that he misled Congress and illegally accepted money from arms merchants.It was his first scheduled public appearance since a federal jury in Washington convicted him Thursday on three of the 12 counts he faced during the three-month trial.
The jurors found that North supplied Congress with a false chronology of the Iran-Contra events, shredded documents to cover up the deceit and accepted a $13,800 home security system from Richard Secord, who still faces trial for his part in shipping weapons to Iran.
The fund-raiser was sponsored by Concerned Citizens for Democracy, led by Cuban-American importer Carlos Perez, and the Miami Medical Team. The groups hope to raise $500,000 for North.
Former Maj. Gen. John K. Singlaub - whose fund-raising efforts for the Contras also surfaced during a congressional probe of the affair - is listed as a member of the first group's advisory board. Singlaub has long been active in raising money for anti-communist causes around the world.
Miami, headquarters for the Contra fighters that the former National Security Council aide worked so hard to support, remains a hotbed of pro-North sentiment. But the area also helped lead to his downfall.
In early 1986, months before the crash of a C-130 cargo plane in Nicaragua helped lead to the Iran-Contra plot's unraveling, the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office here were investigating illegal arms smuggling to the Contras.
Then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Feldman, in prosecuting a routine weapons case, stumbled on connections among drug dealers, the Contras, now-jailed Cost Rican rancher John Hull and various U.S. agencies, including the CIA and North's NSC.
Feldman eventually drew up a chart with North's name at the top of the illegal gun-running effort and tried to pursue a legal case against those involved.