Feds Get Weird
|Sometimes the scene before the federal district court jury in Reno last Wednesday got -- there's no other word for it -- bizarre.|
| U.S. government attorneys
selectively recounted facts in their summation to the
jury as they argued that garden center owner Jerry Keenan
should be convicted of perjury.
And why should he be so convicted? Because, they said, he'd demonstrated "a selective memory" when talking to federal investigators.
"The defendant doesn't have the luxury of coming before you and minimizing things," Asst. U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Connell told jurors.
O'Connell then proceeded to minimize the help that Keenan had offered FBI and ATF agents in their investigation of the December 1995 bombing attempt at Reno's Internal Revenue Service offices.
"Dell Bidart gave the key information on the coffee klatch, so Keenan doesn't get any of the credit," said O'Connell.
But Keenan defense attorney Robert Ben Walker had already pointed out that when Keenan told FBI Special Agent William Jonkey and federal Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agent Jim Doreen how to find "Crazy Joe" Bailie, the chief suspect now indicted, Keenan didn't know what other witnesses had, just hours before, told the agents. It was clear, said Walker, that Keenan was truly trying to help.
Then there was prosecution witness Ricky "Sarge" Hallert, former son-in-law and former employee of Keenan.
As Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Rachow in his summation volunteered the next day, "Ricky Hallert is not the brightest guy in the world."
In fact, by the time Hallert got off the stand, it was clear that even Hallert didn't know what Hallert thought; he could be turned around in his testimony by almost anybody at anytime.
Almost his first words on the stand, elicited by federal prosecutors, were that he previously had lied to both the investigating agents and the federal grand jury.
Asked to explain why, he said that when called to the Keenan house to talk to the agents, he had felt intimidated by being in Keenan's home and hearing him tell the agents he "didn't know" something.
"I didn't want to call him a liar in his own house," said Hallert.
Similarly, he said, he lied to the grand jury a week later because when driving in to Reno that morning with Keenan, and Brian Crockett, both Keenan and Brian Crockett kept saying "I don't know nothing. I don't know nothing," and that had made him feel intimidated again.
But when he decided to change his story, said Hallert, he lied again -- this time about why he had lied before. That was acknowledged under defense cross-examination.
A statement by Hallert, hand-written the evening of his grand jury testimony, said the reason for his false witness was that he had been
afraid of "Joe Bailie and his
militia." The paper had mentioned nothing about
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