Philip B. Heymann, 89, Dies; Prosecuted Watergate and Abscam

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He served 4 presidents implicit six decades, mostly successful the Justice Department and often arsenic a cardinal portion of large investigations.

Philip B. Heymann, who served arsenic  a authoritative   successful  the Watergate hearings, speaking with the property   successful  the people   of the probe  successful  1973.
Credit...Harvey Georges/Associated Press

Katharine Q. Seelye

Nov. 30, 2021, 5:01 p.m. ET

Philip B. Heymann, who served 4 Democratic presidents implicit six decades, mostly successful the Justice Department, and who helped prosecute large investigations, including Watergate and the Abscam bribery sting operation, died connected Tuesday astatine his location successful Los Angeles. He was 89.

His daughter, Dr. Jody Heymann, said the origin was complications of a stroke.

Mr. Heymann (pronounced HIGH-men) served successful the Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Clinton administrations successful a bid of governmental appointments. His past relation was arsenic lawman lawyer general, the 2nd successful command, successful the Clinton Justice Department nether Attorney General Janet Reno. In betwixt his stints successful government, helium taught astatine Harvard Law School and wrote books connected transgression and terrorism, 2 topics successful which helium became an expert.

Throughout his vocation helium often recovered himself going against the atom of prevailing views oregon practices.

In the 1960s, Mr. Heymann, past successful his mid-30s and astatine the State Department, was outraged to larn that J. Edgar Hoover, the all-powerful manager of the F.B.I., had ordered the surveillance of Americans overseas if helium was suspicious of their leftist politics. Mr. Heymann called attraction to the signifier arsenic a usurpation of civilian liberties, which helped extremity it.

In 1994, portion serving arsenic Mr. Clinton’s lawman lawyer wide and constituent antheral for transgression justness policy, he opposed immoderate provisions successful the administration’s broad transgression bill. In his view, these measures — imposing mandatory minimum sentences for low-level cause offenders, spending astir $10 cardinal to physique caller prisons, and locking up repetition offenders for beingness (“three strikes and you’re out”) — would pb to wide incarceration and radical disparities and bash small to halt crime. He resigned abruptly from his occupation earlier the transgression measure was passed.


Credit...David Scull/The New York Times

One of his mentors was Archibald Cox, the Watergate peculiar prosecutor. Mr. Heymann had worked for him erstwhile Mr. Cox was solicitor wide successful the Kennedy administration, and they became colleagues erstwhile Mr. Heymann began teaching astatine Harvard Law School successful 1969. When Mr. Cox was appointed peculiar authoritative successful 1973 to analyse the Watergate affair, Mr. Heymann was 1 of his archetypal hires.

Mr. Heymann investigated the White House “plumbers” unit, truthful named due to the fact that it was expected to halt the leaking of classified accusation to the quality media. And helium was portion of the ineligible squad that successfully prosecuted John D. Ehrlichman, a apical adjutant to President Richard M. Nixon, for his relation successful the cover-up of the break-in astatine the Democratic National Committee’s office successful Washington astatine the Watergate complex.

Mr. Cox believed that the Watergate hearings, held by the Senate Select Committee connected Presidential Campaign Activities and headed by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina, should not beryllium televised due to the fact that specified publicity mightiness jeopardize the case, but helium near it to Mr. Heymann to marque that statement successful court.

Mr. Heymann was praised for walking a bladed enactment betwixt showing interest for the rights of the defendants but not over-arguing that the nationalist should beryllium unopen out. He wrote aboriginal that helium mislaid that effort not unintentionally, due to the fact that helium had wanted to support Mr. Cox from being perceived arsenic the antheral who tried to halt the federation from watching the process unfold. Televising the hearings played an important relation successful gathering the lawsuit against Nixon.

Mr. Heymann was “as adjacent to Archibald Cox arsenic a son,” wrote James Doyle, writer of “Not Above the Law” (1977), a publication astir Watergate. Mr. Cox took connected heroic stature aft Nixon had him fired successful 1973 successful the Saturday Night Massacre, alleged due to the fact that Nixon had archetypal fired 2 apical Justice Department officials who had refused to occurrence Mr. Cox. But adjacent earlier then, Mr. Cox had been an inspiration to Mr. Heymann.

Public service, Mr. Heymann wrote successful an unpublished memoir toward the extremity of his life, requires the benignant of courageousness that Mr. Cox showed successful lasting up to Nixon.

“For those who privation to participate nationalist service, retrieve that your work runs deeper than the orders of immoderate president,” Mr. Heymann wrote.

“Do not commercialized distant your credibility and estimation for governmental favour oregon advancement,” helium added. “Be loyal to the law, the values of the country, and person the courageousness to basal up erstwhile others endanger those ideals.”

Philip Benjamin Heymann was calved connected Oct. 30, 1932, successful Pittsburgh. His father, Sidney, was an security salesman; his mother, Bessie (Kann) Heymann, was a assemblage work volunteer.

Philip received his undergraduate grade successful doctrine from Yale successful 1954, was a Fulbright student astatine the Sorbonne successful Paris, past served 2 years successful the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations, based astatine Andrews Air Force Base successful Maryland. After graduating from Harvard Law School successful 1960, helium clerked astatine the Supreme Court for Associate Justice John M. Harlan, who was noted chiefly for his galore dissents successful cases that restricted civilian liberties.

Mr. Heymann joined Ann Ross successful 1954; they met astatine a creation successful Pittsburgh successful 1948, erstwhile she was 13 and helium was 16, and helium told a person past that helium was going to wed her. She survives him. In summation to her and their daughter, helium is survived by a son, Stephen; 4 grandchildren and 2 great-grandsons. His sister, Sidney, known arsenic Sally, died successful 1991.

Mr. Heymann’s high-profile investigations included Abscam, the F.B.I. sting cognition successful the precocious 1970s that caught nationalist officials connected portion accepting bribes from agents posing arsenic Arab sheikhs successful instrumentality for governmental favors. The operation, which inspired the 2013 movie “American Hustle,” led to the convictions of a United States legislator — Harrison A. Williams Jr., Democrat of New Jersey — arsenic good arsenic six members of Congress and much than a twelve different criminals.

The investigation’s tactics were criticized arsenic entrapment. But Mr. Heymann, who coordinated the probe with Clarence Kelly, manager of the F.B.I., defended those tactics, saying they had struck fearfulness into the bosom of different crooks.

“An undercover informant tells america that radical are acrophobic to springiness oregon instrumentality bribes due to the fact that they’re disquieted that it’s portion of different Abscam,” he told The Harvard Crimson.

He aboriginal became a starring dependable against the usage of torture.


Credit...Brian Snyder

Before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Heymann wrote a wide respected book, “Terrorism and America” (1998), successful which helium warned that violent attacks, by either overseas oregon home actors, could hap successful the United States, and helium spent the adjacent respective years exploring however a ideology could ward them disconnected without restricting civilian liberties.

After 9/11, helium was asked to service connected authorities advisory boards to the quality community. As the George W. Bush medication was utilizing “enhanced interrogation techniques” to effort to extract accusation from force combatants, Mr. Heymann argued bluntly against the usage of torture. Not lone was it inhumane, helium said; it was besides ineffective. Over a 12-year period, helium organized respective gatherings of authorities officials connected the taxable and wrote 3 books connected it.

In aboriginal years helium turned his attraction to trying to curtail the wide dissemination of opiates by pharmaceutical companies agelong earlier their relation successful fueling the opioid situation was understood.

His girl said successful an interrogation for this obituary successful 2019 that she had asked him what helium wanted to beryllium remembered for.

“He said, ‘Speaking information to power,’” she said. “He believed successful authorities service. And adjacent though helium held positions of consequence, helium saw himself arsenic a civilian servant. He believed that we each lend to our government.”

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