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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

“When you don’t have either, pound the table"

Here's an update on the testimony in Brooklyn Supreme Court from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, still the only online news source covering these preliminary hearings:

Most of Bederow’s questions for Lance surrounded a meeting he’d had with the Brooklyn DA’s office in the fall of 2005, during which he presented Downey a copy of his book, “Cover Up.”

“Did your knowledge of Mr. DeVecchio’s immunized statements motivate you to come forward?” Bederow asked Lance.

“No. My purpose for the meeting was as a reporter,” Lance replied. “I had heard rumors from sources that there was an investigation. My primary purpose in writing ‘Cover Up’ was the role of two federal agencies, and what they may or may not have done to prevent the 9/11 attack.”

Lance’s description of his meeting with Downey would be familiar to most reporters — both sides feeling each other out without giving away too much information in the hope of making future use of the contact for any respective tasks that might lie ahead.

Following a series of off-topic queries, Justice Gustin Reichbach finally interrupted Bederow and urged the inquiry onward.

“There’s no jury here, Mr. Bederow,” Reichbach said. “Please keep it focused on the issue before us.” During the hearing, DeVecchio sat quietly at the defense table, at times turning to meet the gaze of two men seated in the gallery, retired FBI agents who’d been accused by prosecutors of witness intimidation for the badge-flashing tactics they allegedly employed while acting as investigators for the defense.

The silver-haired pair were present on Thursday as Bederow vainly fired away at a host of witnesses. Acting as the eyes and ears of their friend and former colleague, the two former agents have appeared at every hearing. DeVecchio — with the exception of last week — has remained at his Florida home, the beneficiary of a generous bail package that allows him to remain free.

During Downey’s earlier testimony, he’d stressed that he never made use of the book ‘Cover Up,’ with the exception of identifying a few individuals he wished to contact.

For Lance, he’d been trying to find out how far the Brooklyn DA was willing to go to uncover the alleged corrupt relationship between DeVecchio and Scarpa.

“The stakes were much higher than four local, Brooklyn-mob murders,” Lance said. “This has implications for national security. That’s what I’ve been trying to get out.”

Indeed, Lance’s efforts included his testimony before a closed session of the 9/11 commission, whose report widely criticized both the intelligence and law enforcement communities.

“In their effort to quash a potentially embarrassing scandal that could’ve undone several, maybe dozens, of organized crime prosecutions,” Lance believes New York-based FBI agents missed a far greater crime.

“The cover-up of the corrupt Scarpa Sr.- DeVecchio relationship led to the New York office of the FBI to bury key leads regarding al-Qaeda activity in New York City that, if pursued, may well have aborted the September 11 attacks,” Lance wrote in a letter to the editor of the New York Sun.

Lance’s November 2004 letter was written in response to a column by organized crime reporter Jerry Capeci, who’d erroneously criticized Lance for naming an NYPD informant who worked for the Organized Crime Investigative Division, a joint NYPD-FBI task force.

Capeci, who was also called to testify by Bederow, got a reprieve from taking the stand when Judge Reichbach denied the defense’s subpoena request.

In his comments regarding Bederow’s style of direct examination, Lance made reference to his days as a student at Fordham Law School.

“It was Dean Joseph McLoughlin who said, ‘When you don’t have it on the law, pound the facts. When you don’t have it on the facts, pound the law. When you don’t have either, pound the table,’ ” Lance recalled after Thursday’s hearing. “That’s what we saw today, an exercise in table-pounding.”

Though narrower issues of their client’s guilt or innocence are expected to retake center stage once the defense calls investigators for the DA’s office this week, Bederow’s hopes to eviscerate the case against DeVecchio remain, for now, unfulfilled.