Washington — The distributing spectacle of public officials taking bribe money on videotape began a new installment here as US Rep. Richard Kelly (R) of Florida went on trial, charged with accepting a $25,000 Abscam bribe.
Congressman Kelly's trial opened Dec. 4 in federal district court, just hours after a jury in New York convicted two Democratic US representatives from New York, Frank Thompson Jr. and John M. Murphy, on similar charges.
Kelly, the only Republican implicated in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's political "sting" operation, has admitted taking the $25,000, putting the bundles of bills in his pockets, and then stashing them in the glove compartment of his car. But he claims he took the money as part of his own investigation into the "shady characters" who offered him the bribe.
Jurors now being selected probably will see videotapes of Kelly early next week. The public will be able to watch the same tapes on evening TV news shows.
So far, juries have convicted all four congressmen tried for taking money from undercover FBI agents posing as agents for fictitious Arab sheikhs seeking to buy influence.
However, two Philadelphia officials won appeals on grounds that the FBI undercover agents entrapped them. Kelly's lawyers are making a similar argument -- that the FBI manufacture the crime and that the bureau had no reason to suspect Kelly of being involved in crime in the past.
Two more members of Congress, Rep. Raymond F. Lederer (D) of Pennsylvania and Sen. Harrison A. Williams (D) of New Jersey, still await trial on Abscam charges.