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Dennis Hastert's attorney: his Watergate connection (+video)

Hastert's attorney, Thomas Green, is one of the most experienced white collar criminal defense counsels in the US. He defended the only original Watergate conspiracy defendant who managed to avoid prison.

[Updated at 3:15 ET p.m]

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is in big legal trouble. He’s facing federal charges that he broke United States banking laws and lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation when questioned about his suspicious withdrawals. According to the indictment against him, Mr. Hastert was using this cash to pay hush money to conceal past misconduct. News reports allege this misconduct was sexual abuse of an underage male.

Hastert pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon to charges that he lied to FBI investigators.

Confronted with all this, Hastert has (unsurprisingly) lawyered up. And apropos of the seriousness of his situation, the attorney he’s hired, Thomas Green, is one of the most experienced white collar criminal defense counsels in the US.

Mr. Green has represented a number of US senators in ethics investigations, for instance. He represented retired Maj. Gen. Richard Secord, a key figure in the Reagan-era Iran-Contra probe. And he played an interesting role in the granddaddy scandal of them all, Watergate. Green was a key lawyer for Robert Mardian, one of the few Watergate figures to have their conspiracy convictions overturned.

Mr. Mardian was a California native and lawyer active in the state’s Republican Party. After Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968, Mardian landed a number of administration posts, including a stint as an assistant attorney general under Attorney General John Mitchell.

When Mitchell quit the Justice Department to head President Nixon’s 1972 reelection effort, Mardian went with him. That’s when the trouble began.

After the Watergate burglars were caught inside Democratic National Committee headquarters in the early hours of June 17, 1972, Mardian served as a contact for G. Gordon Liddy, the reelection committee counsel behind the break-in scheme. On June 20, Mardian and another Mitchell lieutenant met with Mr. Liddy and heard the whole horrifying story of Watergate and other nefarious Liddy activities, including a previous break-in at the office of the psychiatrist for Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers.

In 1974, Mardian was eventually indicted on a count of conspiracy to obstruct the investigation into the Watergate events. A news article covering his court appearance notes that he denied all the specific illegal acts attributed to him in a “firm and confident voice under questioning by his attorney, Thomas C. Green."

The same story notes that Green had taken over Mardian’s defense shortly before, when his original chief counsel fell ill shortly before trial.

A jury convicted Mardian of conspiracy and he was sentenced to a prison term of 10 months to three years. But in 1975, his case was thrown out on appeal. The appellate court ruled that Mardian should have been tried separately from the other alleged conspirators due to the illness of his first lawyer.

None of this bears on Dennis Hastert's situation, of course. But there are few criminal defense attorneys left in Washington with actual Watergate experience, and fewer still who can say they were there when one of the original seven conspiracy defendants managed to avoid prison.

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