Iran/Contra Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh Dies At 102
Lawrence Walsh, a former Deputy Attorney General and Federal District Court Judge who was named as the Independent Counsel charged with investigating the Iran/Contra affair in the late 1980s, has died at the age of 102:
Lawrence E. Walsh, a former federal judge and a mainstay of the American legal establishment who as an independent counsel exposed the lawbreaking in the Reagan administration that gave rise to the Iran-contra scandal, died on Wednesday at his home in Oklahoma City. He was 102.
His family confirmed the death.
Few American lawyers have had as long and varied a career in both the public and private spheres as Mr. Walsh. Besides sitting on the federal bench, he was a prosecutor, corporate litigator, counsel to Gov. Thomas E. Dewey of New York, deputy attorney general under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and a negotiator at the Paris peace talks during the Vietnam War.
But it was the Iran-contra scandal that put him in the public eye as never before. Appointed in 1986 by the judiciary as an independent counsel, Mr. Walsh, a lifelong Republican and an early supporter of President Ronald Reagan, came out of retirement at age 75 to unravel a complicated affair that reached from the White House to Tehran to counterrevolutionary strongholds in the mountains of Nicaragua.
At the heart of it were the clandestine efforts of Reagan administration officials to sell arms to Iran, ostensibly to help secure the release of Western hostages in the Middle East, and then use the profits to give covert support to Nicaraguan rebel forces, which were trying to topple the Marxist rulers there known as Sandinistas. Congress had prohibited aid to the rebels, known as contras.
Mr. Walsh spent more than six years and about $37 million on the investigation, the duration and expense of which became ammunition for his critics. They portrayed him as a modern-day Inspector Javert, a relentless, stiff-necked prosecutor who had applied to a highly political event the kind of law-enforcement template he used when he was a rackets-busting district attorney in New York.
His supporters, however, saw him as a model of rectitude, as a public servant trying to uphold the rule of law and demonstrate that even powerful government officials were not above it.
Walsh ended up getting several convictions out of the Iran/Contra affair, including former White House National Security aide Lt. Colonel Oliver North, who had become the face of the scandal even more than the President himself thanks to the Congressional hearings on the matter which were televised nationwide in the summer of 1987. Several of those convictions were overturned, including North’s, were ultimately overturned however due to the fact that Courts could not determine that the evidence adduced at trial did not come from the immunized testimony of North and others at the hearing.