On March 1, former Nixon Administration aides H.R.Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, Charles Colson, and Gordon Strachan; former attorney general John Mitchell; and campaign aides Robert Mardian and Kenneth Parkinson were indicted on charges of covering up the 1972 break-in of Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Office Building. The grand jury also gave Judge John Sirica a sealed report believed to deal with Nixon's role in the cover-up, with the recommendation that it be forwarded to the House Judiciary Committee for inclusion in its impeachment investigation. The defendants were variously charged with conspiracy,obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements and false declarations. At a brief arraignment hearing, the seven pleaded not guilty. The trial was scheduled to begin on September 9; Sirica announced that he had assigned himself to hear the case. The overall conspiracy charge involving all seven defendants detailed a complex scenario in which the defendants, along with others, arranged "hush money" pay-offs for those charged in the Watergate burglary and wiretapping.
They were also charged with offering executive clemency, destroying documents, and lying to various investigative bodies. According to the 45 "overt acts" of conspiracy cited by the grand jury, the cover-up began within hours after the break- in on June 17, 1972, and continued through March 22, 1973. The grand jury's account of the alleged conspiracy generally followed the damaging testimony offered to the Senate Watergate committee in 1973 by several witnesses, especially former White House counsel John Dean, who had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and was cooperating with the
prosecution. The grand jury also heart a number of tape recordings of
presidential conversations involving the Watergate case. President Nixon was not mentioned except for a reference in one of three counts of perjury against Haldeman. Dean had told the...