Monday, August 23, 2004

Oregon prosecutor lies in anti-Kerry in ad

This prosecutor should immediately be disbarred.

Oregon prosecutor accuses Kerry in ad
August 20, 2004

A Clackamas County prosecutor and decorated Vietnam veteran who appears in an ad attacking Democratic presidential contender John F. Kerry's war record said he did not witness the events in question and is relying on the accounts of his friends who served with the senator.

The 60-second ad, which aired for seven days this month in Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin, features 13 Vietnam veterans, including Alfred French, 58, a senior deputy district attorney in Clackamas County.

In the ad, French says: "I served with John Kerry. . . . He is lying about his record."

The ad was paid for by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group of 300 Vietnam veterans who served in Swift boats and say Kerry has lied about his war record and disgraced his fellow veterans by publicly opposing the conflict upon his return home. The group said the ad will be aired again, though it has not decided where it will be shown.

French, in an interview Thursday, said Kerry lied about the circumstances that led to one of his Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. Kerry received a Bronze Star, a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts commanding a Swift boat in Vietnam.

French said he is relying on the accounts of three other veterans who were friends of his at the time. A fourth veteran with whom French was acquainted corroborated their accounts.

"I was not a witness to these events but my friends were," said French, who was awarded two Bronze Stars during the war. "I believe these people. These are people I served with."

One of the men is Larry Thurlow, a leader of the veterans group and one of Kerry's most vocal critics. Thurlow, who served alongside Kerry, has disputed Kerry's claim that the senator's boat was under fire in March 1969 when he pulled Lt. Jim Rassmann out of the water.

But according to Thurlow's military records, obtained this week by The Washington Post, the five-boat flotilla was under enemy fire that day.

French -- relying on friends' accounts -- said Rassmann would have been picked up by another boat if Kerry had not helped. And French said any shots that were fired came from U.S. soldiers providing cover as Rassmann and two others were rescued.

"It's not like he wouldn't have been saved if Kerry had not been there," French said. "I don't believe they were under any fire when that happened. None of the other boats were damaged."

He said Rassmann's rescue did not merit a special honor.

"Somebody fell off your boat and you go back and pick him up," French said. "It's not worthy of a Bronze Star in my opinion."

Rassmann, who lives in Florence and is campaigning for Kerry, said the ad is motivated in part by some veterans' anger over Kerry's antiwar stance upon returning home -- a charge French acknowledges. Rassmann said the group's claims are completely false.

"To come back 35 years later and conjure up fabricated stories is the lowest form of politics," said Rassmann, who said he does not know French.

"I honor these guys for their service," Rassmann said. "I know they were very courageous, along with John Kerry, and it saddens me that they are all at one another's throats."

French, a registered Republican, said he was reluctant at first to take part in the ad but ultimately "decided it was something I needed to do."

French said his one-year tour of duty in Vietnam overlapped Kerry's by two months. He said they served together in the same unit in January and February 1969. He said he did not know Kerry well during that time.

A married father of three, French is a well-regarded prosecutor who has spent most of his career in the Clackamas County district attorney's office.

Known for his reserved and steady manner, he is one of the prosecutors assigned to the double-murder case against accused child killer Ward Weaver.

Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote said French didn't need approval from him to appear in the ad.

"He has a right to his own personal opinions," Foote said.

And he isn't worried that French's public stand on the presidential race will affect his work.

"I have a lot of confidence in Al French and in his ability to do his job fairly," Foote said.