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James Watt

James Watt mugshot

The arrest of James Watt:

This U.S. Interior Secretary was one of the most controversial cabinet members of the Reagan era.

A lifelong Republican, James Gaius Watt rose through his party's ranks in Wyoming as an aide to Senator Milward Simpson. He also did work for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and in 1969 assumed a deputy post at the Department of the Interior, eventually becoming vice chairman of the Federal Power Commission.

In 1980, newly elected President Ronald Reagan nominated Watt as his Secretary of the Interior…

James Watt with Ronald Reagan

…and Watt won Senate confirmation.

But Watt was a lightning rod because he was perceived as being hostile to the very environment that it was his job to protect.

James Watt on the cover of Time and Newsweek magazines

He also sparked controversy in 1983 when he banned Independence Day concerts on the National Mall, saying rock groups like the Beach Boys who'd performed in these concerts…

The Beach Boys

…encouraged drug use and alcoholism.

James Watt

Fast forward to 1995. No longer a cabinet Secretary, Watt was indicted on 25 counts of felony perjury and obstruction of Justice, accused of peddling influence at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which he had lobbied in the 1980's.

On January 2, 1996, Watt pleaded guilty to one count of a misdemeanor of withholding documents and was sentenced to five years' probation and ordered to pay a $5000 fine and perform 500 hours of community service.

Famous Arrests