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As he has so often in the recent developments in the fast expanding scandal, Counsel Dean emerged as a key and mysterious figure. TIME has learned that it was Dean, surprisingly, who was most instrumental in getting the grand jury off what seemed like a dead-end course. Washington Correspondent Sandy Smith reconstructed the following chronology:
Charges. The big break came after Judge Sirica, on March 23, tentatively imposed heavy sentences on most of the seven convicted Watergate conspirators but offered to review the jail terms later, implying that the sentences might be reduced if the convicted men told everything that they knew about the break-in and bugging. On April 5, McCord, who alone had not yet been sentenced, began making sensational charges before the grand jury. He claimed that Mitchell, Dean and Magruder knew about the Watergate bugging plans in advance and had discussed them at a meeting in Mitchell's office in February 1972, when Mitchell was still Attorney General. Further, according to McCord, plans were approved then to bug the Washington headquarters of Democratic Candidate George McGovern and the Miami Beach hotel suites of top party officials during the Democratic National Convention.
McCord also contended that after the men were arrested inside the Watergate on June 17, they received regular payoffs to keep quiet. These amounted to at least $1,000 per man each month and were, he said, delivered in cash by Mrs. E. Howard Hunt, wife of one of the arrested men. Hunt, a former White House consultant, later pleaded guilty to burglary and wiretapping. His wife was killed in a Chicago airplane crash on Dec. 8; she was carrying $10,000 in cash at the time. McCord also contended that the payoff money was coming from the Nixon reelection committee.
Trouble was, nearly all of the McCord testimony was based on hearsay. McCord had cited as his sources G. Gordon Liddy, another former White House aide convicted in the wiretapping, and Hunt. But Liddy was refusing to speak to the grand jury at all. Rather than talk, he accepted an additional sentence for contempt of court. Hunt did testify further before the jury, but apparently was not supporting McCord's charges about the Watergate planning and the payoffs—or did not have personal knowledge of them.
Thus the grand jury seemed frustrated in trying to confirm McCord's reports. But on April 6, for reasons that are still not clear, Counsel Dean gave information to the Watergate prosecutors in the Justice Department that corroborated for the first time much of what McCord was claiming. His motive could have been connected with the fact that only two weeks earlier he had been publicly accused of