On Scene with BIll Wilson: Happy Birthday Watergate

The Watergate burglary that happened on June 17, 1972 was the beginning of my interest in recording history that was happening around me. I had begun working in Washington, DC in April of 1972. I had a job working as clerical assistant to Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin). Less than two months after I started working 5 men were caught inside the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel and Office complex. The burglars and their ‘handlers’ E. Howard Hunt and G.Gordon Liddy were tried before Judge John Sirica in January of 1973.

The dogged efforts of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reporters from the Washington Post resulted in placing responsibility for covering up the ties between the burglars and the Committee to Re-Elect the President to the White House. On March 1, 1974 seven people were indicted by a federal grand jury and it was their arraignment on March 9 that was my first experience of participating in the media scrum that accompanies high profile cases.

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Attorney General John Mitchell entering the US District Courthouse on March 9, 1974.

John N. Mitchell – former United States Attorney General and director of Nixon’s 1968 and 1972 election campaigns; faced a maximum of 30 years in prison and $42,000 in fines; on February 21, 1975, Mitchell was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury and sentenced to two and a half to eight years in prison, which was later reduced to one to four years; Mitchell actually served 19 months.

H. R. Haldeman – White House chief of staff, considered the second most powerful man in the government during Nixon’s first term; faced a maximum of 25 years in prison and $16,000 in fines; in 1975, he was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice and received an 18-month prison sentence.

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John Ehrlichman enters the District Courthouse almost unnoticed as the media followed HR Haldeman who appeared at the same time.

John Ehrlichman – former assistant to Nixon in charge of domestic affairs; faced a maximum of 25 years in prison and $40,000 in fines. Ehrlichman was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, perjury and other charges; he served 18 months in prison.
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Flanked by policeman Chuck Colson entered the Courthouse on March 9, 1974

Charles Colson – former White House counsel specializing in political affairs; pleaded nolo contendere on June 3, 1974 to one charge of obstruction of justice, having persuaded prosecution to change the charge from one of which he believed himself innocent to another of which he believed himself guilty, in order to testify freely. He was sentenced to 1 to 3 years of prison and fined $5,000; Colson served seven months.

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Gordon Strachan enters the District Courthouse on March 9, 1974

Gordon C. Strachan – White House aide to Haldeman; faced a maximum of 15 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. Charges against him were dropped before trial.
Robert Mardian – aide to Mitchell and counsel to the Committee to Re-elect the President in 1972; faced 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines. His conviction was overturned on appeal.

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Kenneth Parkinson leaves the Courthouse after being arraigned on March 9, 1974

Kenneth Parkinson – counsel for the Committee to Re-elect the President; faced 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. He was acquitted at trial.

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