House Speaker Jim Wright, under investigation by a congressional ethics committee for his financial dealings, has lost a key aide amid a scandal over the adviser's attempted murder of a woman 16 years ago.
The resignation Thursday of John Mack, a key adviser to Wright on legislation and policy, came one week after the Washington Post published a story about Mack's attack on a 20-year-old female stranger in 1973 when he was 19.Although many House members knew of Mack's crime, the publicity caused by the Post story added to the problems plaguing Wright, who is fighting charges of improper financial dealings in the House Ethics Committee.
Mack, 35, was one of the most powerful aides in Congress, making $90,000 a year as executive director of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
Wright, a Texas Democrat, said he had hired Mack as a mail clerk after Mack served 27 months of an eight-year prison sentence for his attack on Pamela Small, now a Washington lobbyist.
Wright said he gave Mack a job on the recommendation of his daughter, who was married to Mack's brother, and of law officers in Fairfax County, Va., where the attack took place.
"I was willing to give this man another chance, and in the intervening years I have never had occasion to regret it," Wright said. "I have come to love John for the person that he is and I know he will do well in whatever work he undertakes."
Small said in the Post interview that Mack lured her into the back of a store he managed, pounded her skull with a hammer, stabbed her repeatedly in the breast with a steak knife, slashed her throat and left her for dead in her car.
"When I was 19 years old, I made a terrible and tragic mistake that caused great harm to another human being," Mack said. "For that I am and always will be full of remorse. I wish I could rewrite the past but unfortunately I can't."
"To Pamela Small, and also to my family, all I can say now is what I have said many times before and to myself every day since this has happened - and that is I am sorry. Truly sorry," Mack added.
Small said Mack never apologized or offered compensation for her injuries. She said she was angry because she felt Wright hired Mack because he needed a job to win parole.
A House Republican spokesman attacked Democrats who defended Mack.
"I am outraged that this man, who is a convicted felon and who has admitted to the brutal attack on an innocent stranger, could hold a position of such power and responsibility on your staff," Republican Congresswoman Barbara Vucanovich of Nevada said in a letter to Wright.