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Judge orders release of Keating testimony

A Los Angeles County judge last week ordered the public release of nearly 4,500 pages of grand jury testimony that led to the state securities fraud indictment of former savings and loan magnate Charles H. Keating Jr. and three co-defendants. Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito rejected a defense request to keep the documents secret. The testimony, transcripts of which will be released Friday, provides the basis for the 42-count indictment against the former operators of the failed Lincoln Savings & Loan of Irvine, Calif.

Stephen C. Neal, Keating's attorney, said after the hearing Friday that he did not plan to appeal Ito's ruling. Defense attorneys had argued that release of the transcripts could hurt their clients' ability to get a fair trial.

Meantime, however, Neal said he would be willing to talk to federal authorities about limited immunity for his client in exchange for Keating's testimony before the Senate ethics committee, which is investigating the conduct of five senators who intervened on Keating's behalf.

"I certainly would receive or return a phone call" from ethics committee members, Neal said. His comments came in the wake of a story in the Los Angeles Times last week disclosing that members of the committee had considered offering Keating immunity in exchange for his testimony.

The committee has denied that it ever discussed granting immunity for Keating, an act that would severely damage a federal criminal investigation into one of the nation's biggest thrift disasters.

Lincoln's collapse in April 1989 is expected to cost taxpayers more than $2-billion.

In court Friday, defense attorneys argued that the release of grand jury testimony from 94 witnesses would fuel further damaging publicity in the case, provide one-sided stories on the prosecution's claims and limit the number of potential jurors who have not been influenced by news reports.

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