Anticommunist warrior John Singlaub - deeply in debt and angry after fighting a massive, Iran-contra conspiracy suit for two years - is taking the offensive. The former general hopes to turn the tables on a left-wing law firm that sued him by launching a countersuit.
The Christic Institute lost its case late last week, when it was thrown out for lack of evidence just days before it was scheduled to reach trial.
The $17 million suit accused General Singlaub and 28 others, including contra leader Adolfo Calero, retired Gen. Richard Secord, and arms dealer Albert Hakim, of a long-running conspiracy to overthrow the government of Nicaragua using drug-trade profits and political assassinations.
In his legal counterattack, Singlaub is charging libel, defamation of character, malicious prosecution, perjury, and espionage, he says. He also will try to recover his legal costs, which he says total $260,000 so far.
Christic attorneys - stunned by last week's abrupt loss - vow that their legal offensive is not over. They are appealing the summary judgment by federal Judge James King.
Danny Sheehan, chief counsel for the Christic Institute, sees transparent politics in the judge's action. ``He believes that that information [in Christic's case] is too explosive, too disruptive. He doesn't want it to go out before the American people.''
In particular, Mr. Sheehan believes Christic's case is politically damaging to George Bush by alleging a criminal conspiracy by his subordinates when he was director of central intelligence.
Judge King did not rule on the broad allegations of a long-running conspiracy. He considered only the evidence linking the defendants to the bombing that injured American journalist Tony Avirgan, the actual plaintiff in the case. He dismissed this evidence as hearsay and otherwise inadmissible.
``The judge gave [Christic] two years,'' says Ted Klein, an attorney for three of the defendants. ``He kept denying summary judgment motions to give them time to gather evidence. They couldn't do one thing: tie any of the defendants to the La Penca bombing.'' (The reference is to an explosion at a 1984 contra press conference at La Penca, Nicaragua, in which eight people were killed.)
Mr. Klein says that his clients are likely to join Singlaub in suing Christic.
Singlaub says he would like to see Sheehan disbarred for what he alleges are illegal tactics. He also would like to limit the use of a federal racketeering law that gives private attorneys like Sheehan broad subpoena powers in civil suits.
``One of the products of this should be some changes in the law,'' Singlaub said in an interview. ``It's not right that people can be subjected to such courthouse terrorism just because they're effective at what they do.''
Singlaub, head of the United States chapter of the World Anti-Communist League, says the suit has kept him away from his work for two years.
``I feel sorry for all the innocent people who have been conned into contributing to this hoax,'' Singlaub said.