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ABSCAM Trials: 1980 & 1981

Warning From Bench

At Koelzer's behest, Williams repeatedly and emphatically denied all charges. So often, in fact, that Judge Pratt expressed concern to Koelzer that such repetition might backfire. "You may convince the jury of exactly the contrary of what the witness is saying, simply because he is saying so often. And it may in their view become very artificial and rehearsed." Koelzer, insisting that the technique was necessary to counteract the damaging effects of the tape, then turned to his client and a section on the videotape where the subject of influence was raised. He asked Williams,

"Why didn't you get up and walk out?"

"I respected the man [Habib]."

Prosecutor Puccio wasn't so sure.

"What did you have in mind?"

"To impress the sheik."

"Impress the sheik with what?"

"The baloney, this was the baloney session."

With this answer, Williams went right to the heart of the defense argument of entrapment. Before Habib had arrived, Williams had received coaching from another undercover FBI agent on how to flatter the sheik. None of this would have happened, Williams claimed, had he not been coerced by that instruction.

It was a line of reasoning that failed to impress the jury. On May 1, 1981, they found both defendants guilty. Judge Pratt later mandated jail sentences similar to those in the previous trial.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980ABSCAM Trials: 1980 1981 - Four-way Conspiracy, Untrustworthy Witness, Influential Senator Charged, Warning From Bench, No Acquittals