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Registration Evaders Will Face Prosecution

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U.S. Attorney General William French Smith reaffirmed last week that his department would begin prosecuting young men who have failed to register for the draft following a late-registration grace period that ends on Feb. 28.

Mr. Smith said at a Feb. 17 press conference that the department would enforce, as best it could, the two-year-old law that requires men to sign up for military conscription within 30 days of their 18th birthday.

Conviction on charges of failure to register could result in a maximum penalty of $10,000, a five-year prison term, or both.

Selective Service officials estimate that 800,000 young men have failed to sign up for the draft since the program was reinstated by former President Carter in the summer of 1980. Groups opposed to draft registration claim the number of non-registrants could be as high as one million. Both sides agree that prosecution of the young men would be time-consuming and expensive.

Mr. Smith said at the press conference that it was difficult to say how many non-registrants would eventually face court hearings, but added that "it certainly will be hundreds."

Early last month President Reagan announced his decision to continue peacetime draft registration, reversing a campaign pledge to abolish the program.

The President also announced the creation of a month-long grace period, beginning Feb. 1, during which registration evaders could fulfill their obligation to sign up without fear of prosecution. Selective Service officials say it is too early to tell how many young men have taken advantage of the grace period.

In a separate act earlier this month, Representative Gerald B. Solomon, Republican of New York, introduced a concurrent resolution in the House of Representatives requesting that the President "take any actions necessary" to make non-registrants ineligible for federal assistance or benefits of any kind, including college financial aid. The resolution also requested that President Reagan take actions that would prohibit agencies or businesses that receive federal financial assistance from hiring draft-registration evaders.

The resolution, which would not have the force of law if passed, has been referred to the House committees on government operations and post office and civil service.--T.M.

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