The Justice Department says it will object to a subpoena calling for Attorney General Edwin Meese to appear as a defense witness in the Wedtech racketeering trial of Rep. Mario Biaggi, D-N.Y., and six others.
Meese and his former chief deputy, James Jenkins, were asked to appear in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where Biaggi is on trial for allegedly accepting bribes to help Wedtech obtain defense contracts.Biaggi's lawyers have argued that Wedtech tried to influence Meese and other high-ranking government officials and had no need to bribe the Bronx congressmen in its bid to obtain government work.
Justice Department spokesman Patrick Korten said Meese's testimony is not needed and that government lawyers may argue as early as Friday against the subpoenas.
"The position of the government is that the testimony of the attorney general would be irrelevant and that therefore he should not be required to appear," Korten said.
Dominic Amorosa, attorney for Biaggi's son, Richard, who is a co-defendant in the case, said Monday in a letter to Judge Constance Baker Motley: "The testimony of these witnesses will establish that it was they and others, and not Richard Biaggi and his father, who corruptly acted on behalf of Wedtech."
"This proof will establish that there simply no logical reason to bribe Mario Biaggi and that the allegation that this was done is a lie," Amorosa said in his letter.
The chief prosecutor in the case, Howard Wilson, an assistant U.S. attorney, citing a gag order, refused to comment on the subpoenas, except to refer to past statements in which he said such testimony would be irrelevant.
The seven defendants are on trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan for allegedly transforming Wedtech from a small south Bronx machine shop into a multimillion-dollar company that obtained defense contracts through payoffs to Biaggi and other officials.
Biaggi has maintained Wedtech actually targeted higher-ranking officials - such as Meese - to obtain government contracts. His lawyers claim Wedtech did not need to bribe Biaggi because the company had contacts in the White House.
Biaggi and his law partner, Bernard Ehrlich, were accused of accepting 225,000 shares of stock in Wedtech in return for using their influence to help Wedtech get government contracts. Some of the stock was concealed by Richard Biaggi, prosecutors have charged.
After three months of prosecution presentations, the defense opened its case Wednesday. The government contended it was appropriate for the politicians to lobby on behalf of the company, but not to get paid for it.