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Independent Counsel: No Conclusions On Brown Probe

ron brown

By Terry Frieden/CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN, Nov. 14) -- The independent counsel who investigated the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown before he died in a plane crash reached no conclusions on whether Brown violated any laws.

The final report by independent counsel Daniel Pearson, released today in federal court, says, "My office's investigation of Secretary Brown ended unfinished with his death. The unfinished state of the investigation and considerations of fairness preclude our office from drawing conclusions about the allegations regarding possible criminal conduct by the Secretary."

Brown died April 3, 1996, in the crash of a U.S. military plane in Croatia while his high-level government delegation was on a trade mission to Europe.

In July 1995, Pearson was appointed to investigate Brown's finances, and those of Brown's former business partner Nolanda Hill. Pearson had launched the investigation, but his final report released today did not discuss the evidence gathered in the early stages of the inquiry.

Explained Pearson: "Brown himself had not had an opportunity to explain or comment upon any questions that might have been outstanding at the time of his death."

The independent counsel had been asked to determine whether Brown had broken laws in connection with his accepting money from Hill or her company, First International. Pearson's probe also included whether Brown had broken laws when he filed a public federal financial disclosure report, or when he applied for a loan to buy a house in Washington.

Pearson closed his investigation of Brown shortly after the plane crash, but handed the investigation of Hill and other Brown associates back to the Justice Department.

A spokesman for the Justice Department's criminal division said today that the Office of Public Integrity and the Fraud Section are continuing to investigate the finances of Hill and others.

References to Brown's activities as Commerce secretary have been raised frequently in recent weeks following controversy involving a former deputy assistant Commerce secretary, John Huang. Brown, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, had hired Huang.

Huang's activities at Commerce, and his Democratic Party fund-raising activities among Asians and Asian-Americans, are in the spotlight and the subject of congressional investigations and a probe by the Commerce Department's inspector general.

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