G.O.P. Doubters Aside, Peanut Case Prosecutor Paul Curran Has the Courage of His Convictions
The son of a Manhattan Republican leader who was a political confederate of Thomas E. Dewey, Curran was born and brought up in New York City. A devout Catholic, he graduated from Georgetown in 1953 and received his law degree from Fordham. Later he served as an assistant U.S. attorney ("Where else can you try a major case in federal court your first year out of law school") and acted as chairman of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller's State Commission of Investigation. As U.S. attorney from 1973 to 1975, he personally prosecuted Mafia leader Carmine Tramunti and was responsible for the conviction of both Republican and Democratic politicians.
Some Republicans complained loudly because Curran, 46, was named "special counsel" not "special prosecutor" (like Leon Jaworski in the Watergate investigation). "It's the power that counts, and the responsibilities," Curran replies mildly. "I have total authority to hire people without consulting the Justice Department, and I have the access to the FBI that I want." (Bell says he avoided the term "prosecutor" because there is no evidence of criminal behavior at this point.) Sensing that her husband's role could be a historic one, Curran's wife, Barbara, has urged him to "record everything" that happens. Curran hopes the job will take less than a year. "The lesson of Watergate and every other investigation," he says, "is that people have to live within the law. It's an unchanging message."