A document that suggests a Texas oil man provided the Iraqi government with information about when the United States would invade should be excluded from his upcoming trial, his lawyers say.
Oscar S. Wyatt Jr. is scheduled to go on trial next month on charges that he conspired to pay millions of dollars in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime to win contracts under the United Nations’ oil-for-food program in Iraq.
His lawyers said in court papers filed Monday and made public Tuesday that highly prejudicial and irrelevant statements were contained in a diary kept by an employee of Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization.
“This document essentially alleges that Wyatt has committed the deplorable crime of treason and aided an enemy of the United States,” the lawyers wrote.
The diary contains one entry suggesting Wyatt notified the Iraqi government that the United States would bomb Iraq, when it would invade Iraq and how many soldiers would be sent, the papers said.
“Such a document is undeniably prejudicial, as a jury sitting during the pendency of the ongoing Iraq war would potentially be prejudiced against Wyatt upon learning that he allegedly gave information about the United States invasion to Iraqi officials,” the papers said.
The document also claims Wyatt, of Houston, persuaded Sen. Edward Kennedy to deliver a speech against the war with Iraq, the lawyers wrote. A spokeswoman for Kennedy, D-Mass., did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.
It was unclear how Wyatt might have known details of the American invasion of Iraq.
The lawyers also asked that the government be blocked from showing the jury evidence that links payments made by Wyatt to the State Oil Marketing Organization directly to Saddam.
“Hussein has remained one of the most hated individuals in the world,” the lawyers said, calling the evidence extremely prejudicial.
Prosecutors, in their own submission, outlined key parts of their case, saying they will prove Wyatt provided millions of dollars of secret financial assistance to the Saddam regime in the 1990s, even before the oil-for-food scheme.
The government said Wyatt was granted the very first oil allocation under the oil-for-food program in 1996 and continued to receive allocations through 2002, long after Saddam’s regime stopped awarding allocations to other U.S. citizens and companies.
The oil-for-food program, which ran from 1996 to 2003, was created to help Iraqis cope with U.N. sanctions imposed after Saddam’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It let the Iraqi government sell oil primarily to buy humanitarian goods.
Wyatt, Saddam pictured
Prosecutors said Wyatt’s co-defendant, David Chalmers, enjoyed a cozy relationship with Iraq in the 1980s and used that to secure oil allocations. They made no reference in their letter to Judge Denny Chin to the diary entry that Wyatt’s lawyers sought to exclude.
In separate papers, Chalmers’ lawyers asked that evidence against Wyatt — including a picture of Wyatt with Saddam — be excluded from trial.
Chalmers and Wyatt, in his early 80s, each could face more than 60 years in prison if convicted. They have pleaded not guilty. Wyatt, the founder and former chairman of Coastal Corp., is scheduled to go to trial in early September.