In 1972, five burglars were caught trying to burgle and wiretap the Democratic Party’s national headquarters at the Watergate Hotel complex in Washington, DC. This led to cover-up of the scandal and put major figures in the Richard Nixon administration in trouble due to their involvement.
On February 21, 1975, John N Mitchell, HR Haldeman and John D Ehrlichman, three most prominent figures of US President Richard Nixon’s administration, were sentenced to 2.5 to 8 years of imprisonment for their involvement in the Watergate scandal.
The three were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice by paying about $500,000 in ‘hush money’ to the Watergate burglars in return for their silence about the breach in the Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972, at the Watergate office and apartment complex.
A fourth man convicted in the conspiracy, Robert C Mardian, who was a former Assistant Attorney General, was sentenced to 10 months to three years.
The scandal led to Nixon being forced to resign as president of the United States. He was a major figure in the coverup but was granted a pardon by succeeding President Gerald Ford, so he couldn’t be charged.
John Mitchell, the former US Attorney General was Nixon’s campaign manager, Haldeman was his Chief of Staff and Ehrlichman was Nixon’s domestic affairs adviser.
However, the sentences of the three convicted were reduced on October 4, 1977, after Judge Sirica, who had earlier charged them, heard their confessions of involvement apologising for the same, and went through the petitions filed by their lawyers again.
Ehrlichman had already undergone jail time of 11 months, and was eligible for parole on October 27, 1977. However, he was also serving a concurrent sentence of 20 months to five years for the ‘plumbers’ case. Ehrlichman served 18 months in prison.
The sentences of Mitchell and Haldeman were reduced to 1 to 4 years. Mitchell served 19 months in prison, while Haldeman served 18 months.
Watergate was one of the biggest political scandals in the US, which shed light on the unlawful activities of the Nixon government.