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Subject: Harold Sawyer, 83; Criminal Lawyer, Michigan Congressman

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Date Posted: April 04, 2003 1:17:04 EDT

Harold "Hal" Sawyer, 83, a retired four-term Michigan congressman and former criminal lawyer, has died after a long battle with throat cancer. He died at his home near Grand Rapids, Mich., late Wednesday or early Thursday.

A San Francisco native who was educated at UC Berkeley, Sawyer was a successful defense lawyer who won several murder trials. By the 1970s, he had helped build his law firm into the largest in Michigan outside Detroit. In 1975, he agreed to take a two-thirds pay cut to become the Kent County prosecuting attorney.

A lifelong Republican and close friend of former President Ford, he was elected to Congress in 1976 with a strong desire to revise the criminal code and pushed for stronger drug laws. Neither of his attempts to retain stiff sentences for possession or marijuana or to create a federal drug czar were successful, however.

In 1984, when announcing he would not seek a fifth term, Sawyer said he was most proud of his efforts to find homes for 19 orphans from Bangladesh and winning the release of several people being held in "humane deterrence camps" along the Thai-Cambodian border.

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