The U.S. Justice Department has admitted to secretly paying off two prosecution witnesses whose testimony convicted the Charlotte Three. The Charlotte Three are three black civil rights activists-Charles Parker, TJ. Reddy and Jim Grant-who were convicted in 1 972 of setting a North Carolina stable afire. Last spring, the Charlotte Observer reported that the only two prosecution witnesses against the three had been secretly paid $4000 each by the government for the testimony, then had been provided with additional living expenses exceeding 510,000. According to the Observer, the secret payments were approved personally by Robert Mardian of the Justice Department's Internal Security División; Mardian has since been indicted on Watergate charges. In court briefs filed this month, the government acknowledged the payments but called them "relocation payments." The three men have since demanded new trials, saying the payments were made in secrecy in order to influence Hood's and Washington's testimony. Court hearings in both state and federal courts will be held within the next six to eight weeks to decide whether the men will be entitled to new hearings. New trials would present serious problems for the government. One of the witnesses was recently indicted on a second degree murder charge and is awaiting trial. The other witness was indicted on assault with a deadly weapon charges and has gone underground. Their credibility, says the Observer, is now open to serious question.