It is an era when such diverse personalities as William Kunstler and John Mitchell have emerged from long, tough trials singing the praises of the U.S. jury system. But then they were on the favorable end of the verdicts. What would be the reaction of presidential adviser John Ehrlichman, found guilty of violating the civil rights of Dr. Lewis Fielding (Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist) and lying to both the FBI and a grand jury?
Ehrlichman quickly showed that he had not forgotten how to stonewall. Striding aggressively into a sea of reporters, he said he had been shocked by the verdict and would appeal. But he added: “Nothing that happened today has shaken my faith in the American judicial system. I am still looking forward to complete exoneration.”
The 49-year-old Ehrlichman is going to need all the optimism he can muster. If his appeal fails, he could be sentenced to 25 years in prison and he still has to stand trial later this year in California on similar charges and in Washington for the Watergate cover-up. He has had to borrow $20,000 to pay tuition for his five children. After conferring with a probation officer in Washington, he was expected to return to his rented house in the exclusive Hunts Point section of Seattle, and wait out the appeal process.
Said a long-time neighbor there, Mrs. Ralph James, who watered the Ehrlichmans’ lawn while they were in D.C. for the trial, “I just can’t believe this is all happening. He was such a fine man, the kind you look up to.”
Another Ehrlichman friend was equally distraught. William J. Wilkins, a retired judge from Seattle who testified as a character witness on Ehrlichman’s behalf, said he had not been surprised by the guilty verdict, which the jury reached in only three hours. “You know the feel you get for a jury?” he said. “I sort of sensed that John was in a rough spot.”