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Our "deep throat": Gay lawyer Douglas Caddy was the original lawyer for the Watergate burglars - and was, he says, targeted by the government for dirty tricks. Did the scandal grow in part from homophobia?

At the end of May the world learned the solution to the biggest mystery of the Watergate scandal: Deep Throat, the anonymous tipster who leaked information to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, was Mark Felt--the number 2 guy at the FBI.

The news prompted attorney Douglas Caddy, who is gay, to make his own revelations. The first lawyer to represent the Watergate burglars, Caddy believes the homophobia that led to his own harsh treatment by investigators may have escalated the cover-up that ended up driving Richard Nixon from office in August 1974.

Even to political junkies, Caddy's name might not ring a bell. But he is portrayed in the classic 1976 film All the President's Men. Early on, Woodward, played by Robert Redford, walks into a courtroom for the arraignment of the five men accused of burglarizing the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in D.C.'s Watergate office complex and sits behind a mysterious well-dressed lawyer. The lawyer is anxious to avoid the reporter's repeated questions about how the burglars had obtained legal counsel without making any telephone calls since their arrest.

Called Markham in the movie, in real life that lawyer was Caddy--counsel for the five men arrested during the Watergate break-in and for two better-known Watergate players: E. Howard Hunt, the ex-CIA man who supervised the break-in, and G. Gordon Liddy.

"It was just as dramatic in real life as it was in the movie," Caddy tolls The Advocate with a nostalgic sigh during a phone interview from his home in Texas. "I had a hunch, a feeling of how big this could be. And I wasn't all that excited about being in the middle of it."

It was June 17, 1972, and Caddy was a relatively naive 34-year-old corporate lawyer. Now a 67-year-old attorney in private practice in Houston, with five books under his belt, Caddy feels wiser for the experience but hasn't recovered from the bitter taste it left.

In the film, Caddy/Markham marks the first appearance of the dark forces aligning against Woodward, the heroic reporter who, with his reporting partner Carl Bernstein, helped break open the conspiracy surrounding the break-in. But in real life, Caddy says, the situation was much more complex. The forces working against Woodward and Bernstein turned even more heavily against him because he was an openly gay man.

Caddy's role in the saga began with an unlikely phone call around 3 A.M. that night from Hunt, the former CIA operative who was working from a White House office in the adjacent Old Executive Office Building. Hunt and Caddy had developed a professional relationship after meeting at a public relations firm and struck up a friendship over their shared political views. Caddy had been an early national director of Young Americans for Freedom, a young conservatives group founded in part by William F. Buckley, and had recently done volunteer work for the Committee to Reelect the President, or CREEP. He'd also done some of Hunt's legal work, such as drawing up wills or other routine matters.

That night--just hours after D.C. police arrested five men for breaking into the DNC offices--Hunt told Caddy he needed to talk. The pair met at Caddy's house, and the full scope of Hunt's troubles became clear. Soon after, Liddy, one of the masterminds of the break-in, retained Caddy as his lawyer on Hunt's advice. It was also through Hunt that Caddy served briefly as counsel for the five arrested burglars.

Having no experience in criminal law, Caddy enlisted the help of a criminal attorney to speak for the accused burglars. Because of this, he didn't argue before the court for any of the seven.

But the question Woodward wanted answered, both in the film and in real life, turned out to be the same question government investigators soon wanted answered: Who got the burglars their legal counsel? The answer would have implicated Hunt--and by extension, the White House--in the break-in.

But Caddy wouldn't talk.

Eleven days after the burglary, U.S. district court judge John Sirica, who handled the case, slapped Caddy with a subpoena, compelling him to testify to a grand jury against Hunt and Liddy. Caddy refused, claiming attorney-client privilege, and was later found in contempt of court. "Never in the history of the American legal system has attorney-client privilege been disregarded so flagrantly," Caddy says. He adds with certainty, "T abuse of me was gay bashing." (In the end his right to refuse to testify against his clients was upheld by an appeals court.)

"The judge and the prosecutors had different agendas, but they thought they could push me around," Caddy says, referring to Sirica, whom he says was seeking the national spotlight, and assistant U.S. attorney Earl Silbert, whom he says was attempting to protect the Nixon administration. "They thought that since I was a gay man, I could be manipulated and that I wouldn't fight, but they were wrong." (Sirica died in 1992; Silbert remains in private practice today.)

With the heat on Caddy, the seven Watergate conspirators soon cut ties with him a decision that may have escalated the cover-up. The seven came to be represented by lawyer William O. Bittman, who would eventually confess to handling hush-money bribes given to the break-in suspects from sources tied to Nixon's reelection campaign. Caddy says he had steadfastly turned down offers of hush money for his clients, an assertion supported by testimony in at least one Watergate-related trial.

History proved Caddy's the wiser decision, since tracking the money from CREEP to the burglars was one of the main triggers that brought the Administration's dirty tricks and domestic espionage schemes to light. Caddy also suggests that Sirica's harsh treatment encouraged Hunt and Liddy to proceed with the cover-up, fearing they--like Caddy--would not get a fair hearing. He cites Hunt's memoir, which notes, "If Sirica was treating Caddy ... so summarily, and Caddy was completely uninvolved in Watergate--then those of us who were involved could expect neither fairness nor understanding from him."

Caddy believes he was targeted for dirty tricks of a different sort because he was gay. While he was always careful about his dealings within the very closeted gay population in Washington--a place where double mirrors and undercover agents were the norm at gay bars--Caddy believes the FBI and Washington police attempted to set him up with a gay lure. That assertion appears to be borne out by an 1977 Advocate interview with Earl Robert "Butch" Merritt Jr., a gay FBI informant. D.C. police "asked if [Merritt] knew one of the Watergate attorneys," the article reported. Merritt did not name Caddy but recounted that police "said [the lawyer] was gay [and] asked if I could get to know him ... 'to find out all you can about his private life.'" Merritt declined the assignment several times, he told The Advocate. Merritt's story is also reported in Jim Hougan's 1984 Watergate book, Secret Agenda.

The FBI denies the charge, saying in a letter to Caddy that a lack of documents in its files shows the agency had never investigated him.

Caddy also claims he testified in the first month of the case about attempts to provide hush money to his clients--testimony that was, he says, deliberately deleted from court records in order to hide the connections between the burglars and the president's men.

Would the history of Watergate--a story broken by reporters told by Deep Throat to "follow the money--have been significantly changed had Caddy remained the burglars' attorney? "It's hard to say what would have happened if I remained as counsel, but I had already turned [hush money] down," he says. "There's a chance it would never have gotten to the point it did."

The age of the case makes it hard to verify the details of Caddy's account. Calls to Woodward were not returned, while the FBI and the Department of Justice both declined to comment on the actions of prior administrations.

Caddy's experiences changed his entire outlook on government. He spent years reviewing court cases for a legal research firm and saw corruption in "9% to 10%" of them. He claims corruption of the judicial system has reached a new high with the appointment of Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzalez and the hunt for terror suspects in full swing. "As the saying goes, I wouldn't say I left the conservative party, I'd say it left me," Caddy says. "There are elements of this government that are neo-fascist, and I feel comfortable saying that."

He hopes future generations can benefit from his writings by opening their eyes to the complexity of the forces at play in the government. And of course, he hopes to inspire others to stand up for themselves if they are victims of heavy-handed tactics.

"There's a lot of this going on to this day," he says.

Caddy's smoking gun

In the preparation of this article, Watergate attorney Douglas Caddy provided The Advocate dozens of pages of documentation, including court orders, letters from Hunt and Liddy, and other records and recollections. The magazine is now preparing to make Caddy's papers available via our online edition, After August 1 click on ISSUE LINKS to find Caddy's complete archive.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:POLITICS
Author:Hudson, Mike
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 16, 2005
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