16. The courts dismissed the case against Ellsberg
Whatever else the White House Plumbers were, they evidently were bumblers when it came to the crime of burglary. When Ellsberg’s trial (he faced over 100 years in prison if convicted) began in the spring of 1973 it was revealed that two of the already convicted Watergate burglars, G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt, had broken into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in Los Angeles in an attempt to obtain further evidence to support the government’s case. The filing cabinet which they rifled today sits in the Smithsonian Institution. The Judge, US District Court Judge William Byrne, ordered the information shared with Ellsberg’s defense lawyers.
He then dismissed the case presented by the prosecution, citing government misconduct. “The bizarre events have incurably infected the prosecution of this case”, he wrote in his decision. The increasing pressure on the Nixon White House helped lead to the decision not to pursue further legal actions against Ellsberg, Watergate having supplanted the Pentagon Papers in the attention of the American public. It was later revealed that senior Nixon aide John Ehrlichman had met with Judge Byrne and offered him the position of FBI director, which the Judge turned down while the Ellsberg case was pending.