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US attorney Asa Hutchinson coverup of Mena CIA-coke. Book: The Boys on the Track

by Ask Mike Ruppert.
Asa Hutchinson has been
"just obeying orders" for a long time. Lots of dead bodies follow him around. He's just piling up some more in San Francisco. This time it's the sick and dying he's attacking.
Passages from *The Boys on the Tracks* by Arkansas journalist Mara Leveritt:

pp214-215

Within weeks of that conversation, [Barry] Seal began moving his fleet of
airplanes and helicopters to Mena. Investigators never were able to
ascertain exactly how many aircraft he controlled, but by early 1982 they
knew that he had shifted his base of operations to Arkansas. They knew
because, though Seal made it a point to work from pay phones, calls to his
pager were being monitored. As a result of that intelligence, Seal's
watchers in the Louisiana State Police contacted A. L. Hadaway, the sheriff
of rural Polk County, Arkansas, and notified him that the smuggler was
setting up his headquarters in a hangar at the Mena airport.

The FBI also contacted Sheriff Hadaway and asked him to monitor the
smuggler's activities. For some time, the FBI, DEA, and other agencies had
been tracking Seal's activities as part of an investigation into
international cocaine smuggling, code-named "Coinroll." Hadaway checked on
Seal as he could and made inquiries about Rich Mountain Aviation. Over the
course of the next several months, he learned that Rich Mountain had
installed "drop doors" in the bottom of several of Seal's planes. Such
modifications are supposed to be reported to the FAA, because they weaken a
plane's structure, but the alterations of Seal's planes were not reported.
Seal also had nine aircraft rigged with sophisticated electronic equipment,
at a cost of $750,000. The bill was paid in cash. By the autumn of 1982, it
was clear that Seal had completed his move to Mena.

Meanwhile, the IRS was watching him, too. The smuggler had been at Mena for
less than a year when William C. Duncan, an investigator for the
U.S.Treasury Department, received a call from Asa Hutchinson, the U.S.
attorney for the Western judicial District of Arkansas. Hutchinson invited
the IRS agent to a meeting in his office in Fort Smith, a city north of
Mena on Arkansas's border with Oklahoma. With Hutchinson when Duncan
arrived was a DEA agent by the name of Jim Stepp. Hutchinson and Stepp told
Duncan that U.S. Customs officials had been watching Seal, and that, as
part of a coordinated effort, they wanted Duncan to look for evidence of
money laundering in the businesses and banks around Mena.

According to Duncan it was not long before he found sizable cash deposits,
the hallmark of laundered money. The process was simple. Rich Mountain
Aviation was obtaining cashier's checks in amounts just under ten thousand
dollars at a variety of financial institutions in Mena and surrounding
towns. The limited size of the deposits avoided the need to file a Currency
Transaction Report, a form required by the IRS for amounts over ten
thousand dollars. The requirement for CTRs, as they are called, was put
into place specifically as a means of foiling attempts to launder large
bundles of cash. Duncan reported to his superiors that in November 1982,
the owner of Rich Mountain Aviation had taken a suitcase full of cash to an
officer of one of Mena's banks. According to statements Duncan took from
the tellers, the bank officer went down the teller line handing out stacks
of bills, each totaling slightly less than ten thousand dollars, and got
nearly seventy thousand dollars worth of cashier's checks in return. The
checks were made out to a construction company in Houston, Texas, which
then built a new hangar for Seal at the airport.

pp224-227

While Bunn saw Roger Clinton's arrest as little more than "a damage-control
operation," others took it as a sign that drug laws were being fairly
enforced. Even as citizens felt sympathetic to the governor and his family
for the painful situation, the arrest of someone so close to the state's
highest official reassured many that no one was beyond the law. It was an
impression that U.S. Attorney Asa Hutchinson reinforced. At a speech to a
Lions Club meeting in the state's western district, Hutchinson said that he
and other officials were working aggressively to change the state's image
"as a haven for drug traffickers "-traffickers who he said were "sneaking
drugs into Arkansas directly from Mexico, South America, and Florida.
"While he said most of the narcotics arriving in Arkansas were distributed
out of state, Hutchinson also told the group that "a big portion" was being
sold wholesale to dealers working in Arkansas. To Linda, the
acknowledgement by a US. attorney in the mid1980s that Arkansas was "a
haven" for international drug traffickers echoed the remark Garrett had
made after the killings began in Saline County. It now seemed to her that
in the years leading up to Kevin's and Don's deaths, many law enforcement
officials were aware that an international drug ring with a national
distribution network was operating out of Arkansas-and that, as Hutchinson
had noted, "a big portion" of its business was being conducted in the state.

Talk was one thing, but arrests were another. Despite the U.S. attorney's
tough-sounding speech about cracking down on traffickers, Barry Seal, who
some investigators were beginning to think was the nation's biggest drug
trafficker at the time, continued to operate with apparent impunity from an
airport a few miles from Hutchinson's office. Seal knew that while some law
enforcement authorities were out to get him, others were committed to
making sure that he was never put on the spot. In November 1984, when a
reporter in Louisiana told Seal that authorities there were planning to
indict him, the pilot scoffed.

"If they indict me," Seal said, "it means that I go to court. It means that
then I get to tell my side of the story. All of this and much, much more
that you're now hearing from me will be put out in the public eye. The
justice Department is not going to tolerate this. There's no way they can
indict me."

As it turned out, Seal was wrong -- in part. Louisiana did indict him, but
his case never went to trial. He pleaded guilty and worked out an agreement
that let him stay out of prison.

Linda fumed. Why had no one -- not in Florida, nor Louisiana, nor Arkansas
-- slammed this man into jail?



RUSSELL WELCH AND BILL DUNCAN

By 1985, Welch of the state police and Duncan of the IRS were wondering the
same thing. After months of investigation they had taken their evidence
against Seal to Hutchinson to be presented to a federal grand jury. The
evidence included testimony from a variety of sources that Seal was, in
Duncan's words, "doing some work for the United States government" in
Central America and "smuggling on the return trips for himself"; that
aircraft were being illegally modified for drug drops and having their
identification numbers changed; and that more than a quarter million
dollars in cash had been laundered through the banks in tiny Mena alone.
Welch and Duncan supplied Hutchinson with a list of some twenty witnesses
they wanted called, a list that included Barry Seal and people involved
with Rich Mountain Aviation.

The two investigators had every reason to expect that Hutchinson would act
on their recommendations. He always had in the past. But in this case, to
their surprise, Hutchinson did not fully oblige. Instead, he subpoenaed
only three of the twenty witnesses the investigators had recommended, and
after the three testified, Duncan later reported, two emerged from the jury
room furious. One of the witnesses, a secretary at Rich Mountain Aviation,
had given Duncan sworn statements about money laundering at the company,
transcripts of which Duncan had provided to Hutchinson. But when the woman
left the jury room, she complained to Duncan that Hutchinson had asked her
nothing about the crime. As Duncan later testified, "She basically said
that she was allowed to give her name, address, position, and not much
else. "The other angry witness was a local banker who had conducted a
search of his bank's records and, in Duncan's words, "provided a
significant amount of evidence relating to the money-laundering operation."
He, too, emerged from the jury room soon after having gone in, complaining
"that he was not allowed to provide the evidence that he wanted to provide
to the grand jury."

Duncan considered what was happening highly irregular. He later testified
in a deposition that the grand jury foreman and other members of the panel
had "specifically asked to hear the money-laundering evidence specifically
asked that I be subpoenaed-and they were not allowed to have me subpoenaed.
She said the whole grand jury was frustrated." The frustration felt by the
investigators and the grand jurors was compounded by the fact that now, not
only Hutchinson, but a new US. attorney, also seemed to be going nowhere
with the investigation. Hutchinson had resigned as US. attorney in October
1985 to make what turned out to be an unsuccessful bid for the US. Senate.
He was replaced in the office by his assistant, J. Michael Fitzhugh.

Duncan testified at his deposition that the difficulties he and Welch had
experienced under Hutchinson intensified under Fitzhugh. At one point
Duncan stated in his deposition that the grand jury foreman "indicated that
Mr. Fitzhugh explained to them that I was in Washington at the time and
unavailable as a witness, which was not the truth." Duncan's superior at
the IRS, his chief of criminal investigation, made several trips to Fort
Smith to complain in person to the US. attorney, but the trips were to no
avail. The witness statements gathered by Duncan and Welch were never
presented to the grand jury, and no one was indicted. In 1991, as Duncan
was being deposed about the U.S. attorneys' handling of the case, he was
asked what conclusions he and his superior had drawn. He answered
matter-of-factly. "There was a cover-up.

The officials taking Duncan's deposition were Arkansas attorney general
Winston Bryant and Arkansas congressman Bill Alexander. They asked, "Are
you stating now under oath that you believe that the investigation in and
around the Mena airport of money laundering was covered up by the US.
attorney in Arkansas?"

Duncan replied again, "It was covered up."

"I had a very good working relationship with all the assistant United
States attorneys and with the US. Attorney's Office for the Western
judicial District-never any problems," he explained. "The office was open
to me, and I visited with them every time I was in Fort Smith. And we
couldn't understand why there was this different attitude. I had found Asa
Hutchinson to be a very aggressive U.S. attorney in connection with my
cases; then, all of a sudden, with respect to Mena, it was just like the
information was going in, but nothing was happening over a long period of
time. But just like with the twenty witnesses and the complaints, I didn't
know what to make of that.

"Alarms were going off. And as soon as Mr. Fitzhugh got involved, he was
more aggressive in not allowing the subpoenas and in interfering in the
investigative process. He was reluctant to have the state police around,
even though they were an integral part of the investigation. For instance,
when the moneylaundering specialist was up from Miami, Mr. Fitzhugh left
Mr. Welch in the hall all day, until late in the afternoon, and refused to
allow him to come in. We were astonished that we couldn't get subpoenas. We
were astonished that Barry Seal was never brought to the grand jury,
because he was on the subpoena list for a long time. And there were just a
lot of investigative developments that made no sense to us."

Asked to elaborate, Duncan continued, "One of the most revealing things was
that we had discussed specifically with Asa Hutchinson the rumors about
National Security [Administration] involvement in the Mena operations. And
Mr. Hutchinson told me personally that he had checked with a variety of law
enforcement agencies and people in Miami, and that Barry Seal would be
prosecuted for any crimes in Arkansas. So we were comfortable that there
was not going to be National Security interference." Another "very strange
thing," he said, was that "we were dealing with allegations of narcotics
smuggling, massive amounts of money laundering. And it was my perception
that the Drug Enforcement Administration would have been very actively
involved at that stage, especially along with the Arkansas State Police.
But DEA was conspicuously absent during most of that time. The FBI appeared
on the scene intermittently. Usually when Russell and I were going to
conduct some credible interviews, Tom Ross, from the Hot Springs FBI
office, would suddenly appear on the scene. He would make some trips to
Baton Rouge with us. U.S. Customs was conspicuously absent also. It was
primarily just Russell Welch and myself."


p246-7

CLINTON VAGUE ON MENA

Back in Arkansas at this time, Jean Duffey was developing her Saline County
Drug Task Force, and the lack of indictments in the Mena investigation was
turning into an issue in the race for the state's attorney general. In 1990
Asa Hutchinson, the former U.S. attorney who had overseen the Mena
investigation from 1982 through most of 1985, was running as the Republican
candidate for attorney general against the incumbant, Winston Bryant.
Bryant printed campaign flyers accusing his opponent of failing to pursue
the case. Hutchinson sued Bryant for libel, arguing that the investigation
was "still developing" when he had resigned the office. Hutchinson lost the
election.

Arkansans were beginning to realize that something peculiar had happened at
Mena. But few could have said what that was. At the same time, the story of
Barry Seal was working its way into the national consciousness. In late
1990, HBO began filming Doublecrossed, a movie based on Seal's life. Dennis
Hopper starred as Seal, and Robert Carradine played a DEA agent. But even
with Seal dead-and moving into the realm of legend-the real-life story of
what he had brought to Mena reeled on. In May 1991, the same month that
U.S. Attorney Banks ended the grand jury without issuing any indictments
relating to Saline County, Attorney General Bryant sent petitions to
Lawrence Walsh, the special prosecutor for the Iran-Contra investigation.
Bryant said that the petitions bore "the signatures of more than 1,000
citizens, mostly Arkansans, who are calling for an investigation" into the
activities of Barry Seal. "Their specific concern," Bryant wrote, "as well
as my own, is to learn why no one was prosecuted in Arkansas despite a
mountain of evidence that Seal was using Arkansas as his principal staging
area during the years 1982 through 1985. The people of Arkansas need, and
deserve, a final and fun accounting of this matter, and it is our hope that
the Office of Independent Council can provide one."
Related Categories: Police State & Prisons
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