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Pho tos by Eug ene Po r te r The newspaper and the DA sing swords in Odessa By John Moulder Odessa The Odessa American, conservative voice of the oil-rich Permian Basin, is against forced taxation. This stand necessarily places the newspaper in philosophical opposition to public education, zoning, assessment paving, you name it. Naturally, the American ends up crossways with public officials from time to time. Some fuss at the editor, others bad-mouth the paper and its reportersand then there’s John Green. A curious drama is going on here, a take-no-prisoners struggle between the Ector County district attorney and the newspaper. The city editor is under indictment for attempting to bribe a politician, a $3.5 million libel suit is pending, and the DA and newspaper have each other under continuing investigation. The cast includes: *DA John Green, 38, a lean, feisty Baylor graduate and former all-state football player named DA by Gov. Preston Smith in 1969. Green brags about a good prosecution record, though some of his guilty verdicts have been thrown out by higher courts because of improper courtroom comments. *John Sliney, 45, bearded American city editor, a former bartender who has been the paper’s news-gathering stalwart for nineteen years. Sliney and Green were close friends until last fall. Their apartments are just twenty feet apart in a north-Odessa complex. They used to do everything together drink, chase women, cook out. Now Sliney says he ain’t no friend of mine. Green’s trying to put him in jail. *Olin Ashley, 52, gray-haired editor, with the paper twenty years. An avid newsman, he would have been more at home in the Chicago of the twenties than the Odessa of the seventies. He’s more aggressive than most Texas editors, and though he tolerates no nonsense on the job, he drinks with the boys at night. He pursues a story lead with cub-reporter zeal, and the Freedom Newspapers’ editorial directives are so ingrained in him, he seems to carry them out by instinct. *Lyle DeBolt, 43, publisher and member of the Freedom Newspapers publishing family. The American, with forty thousand subscribers, ranks fourth in circulation among the Anaheim, Calif.-based chain’s 25 papers. DeBolt is backing the editorial department to the hilt in the Green controversy. The DA and the newspaper have crossed swords several times in recent years. Ashley claims Green physically threatened two of his reporters at different times, a charge the DA denies. Green admits, however, that he threatened to bar the paper from his office in 1972 after it reported that Green, through stubbornness, had run up a $5,333 attorney’s bill in a murder trial. Ashley says he calmed Green down by printing a followup story in which the DA dismissed the comments of the defense lawyers quoted in the first story as “sour grapes.” Two years later, the American printed a story, on the strength of data provided by Green’s chief investigator Tom Barker, about a man seized with narcotics after a high-speed chase. Ashley learned later that the story was a hoax, invented by Barker for publicity, and personally wrote an expose which the Associated Press moved over its state wire. A year ago, state intelligence agents arrested Barker in a gambling raid and took him off to jail in handcuffs. Neighbors Sliney and Green rode to the police station together to spring Barker, who resigned from the DA’s staff the next day and became a bail bondsman. Barker wasn’t charged; three other men were, but the grand jury no-billed them. After things settled down, Green declared, “There is not any illegal, unlawful gambling going on in our county.” The paper had another flap with Green last August. The American reported that Green had written a letter to state corrections officials recommending a pardon for convicted embezzler Joe D. Hicks. Two months after Hicks’ pardon came through, the American noted, Green allowed the ex-con to pay his way to Las Vegas for a holiday. Since then, Hicks has been convicted in a drug conspiracy case and sentenced to life in prison. After publication of the Hicks story, Green called a press conference to announce he wasn’t going to give any more news to the American. He even had one of his investigators evict an American reporter from the conference. Green’s boycott frustrated the newspaper every time the Ector County grand jury met. Green started releasing indictment lists to the American’s TV and radio competitors, but made the local paper wait for days until the bills had been entered in court records. The American missed no important stories because of Green’s withholding tactics, but the indictment list is a big deal to a newspaper which records every hubcap theft, dog bite and grass fireand woe be unto the reporter who misses one. Meanwhile, Ashley was checking out Editor Olin Ashley A curious drama is going on here, a take-no-prisoners struggle between the Ector County district attorney and the newspaper.