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Friday, August 10, 2007

Peter Lance called to testify

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Author/Journalist To Take Stand

DeVecchio’s defense attorney, Mark Bederow, also subpoenaed award-winning journalist and author Peter Lance — whose book “Cover Up” provided the “springboard” for the investigation into the former G-man’s relationship with his mob-linked informant, according to public statements Downey made at a press conference in the spring of 2006.

In arguments before state Supreme Court Justice Gustin Reichbach prior to Downey taking the stand, Bederow alleged that Lance’s book, “Cover Up: What the Government is Still Hiding about the War on Terror,” was also based on so-called “immunized testimony.”

Bederow charged that Lance made use of “immunized” testimony DeVecchio gave at a court appearance, as well as an “immunized” statement the now-retired agent made during an internal FBI probe.

In the mid-1990s, the feds got wind of allegations that DeVecchio’s relationship with Colombo crime family capo Gregory “The Grim Reaper” Scarpa Sr. — an FBI informant for 15 years — was tainted. As a result of those internal rumblings, an investigation was undertaken which ultimately cleared DeVecchio of any wrongdoing — a whitewash, according to Lance’s book, a conclusion he explains within the pages of his tome.

As the morning court session drew to a close, Reichbach ruled that Lance would have to take the stand and answer limited questions. On his way out of court in the company of his attorney, Slade Metcalfe, Lance declined to comment until after his session on the stand today.

Lance had been reluctant to comment on the subpoena, except for a letter he wrote to Reichbach asking to be excused from taking the stand to protect his sources, many of whom are high-ranking intelligence officials and law enforcement personnel. His attorneys have also waged a vigorous battle to keep their client off the stand, citing New York state’s shield law, which protects journalists from divulging their sources.

But the subject matter of interest to Bederow and Douglas Grover, (DeVecchio’s other defense attorney), had more to do with Lance’s conversations with prosecutors at the genesis of the investigation.

Did DA Use Book Based on Immunized Information?

Bederow and Grover believe that Lance based sections of his book on immunized testimony given by DeVecchio, and that he provided this information to prosecutors at a meeting at the District Attorney’s Jay Street headquarters in December 2005.

According to yesterday’s testimony by former prosecutor Downey, who led the DeVecchio investigation, he met with Lance at the urging of his supervisor.

“Michael Vecchione [head of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Racket’s Division] informed me that there was an investigative reporter, Peter Lance, who said that he had information about the DeVecchio case and asked me to meet with him,” Downey told the court on Wednesday.

“He told us about the two books he had written, the main themes of his books,” Downey said, adding that there was no discussion of any immunized testimony by Lance or Downey at the meeting. “It [the meeting] didn’t have any bearing” on the investigation, Downey said.

After admitting to an interest in the portion of “Cover Up” in which Lance traces the beginnings of the FBI’s relationship with Scarpa, the Colombo capo who allegedly used information provided by DeVecchio to rub out several enemies, Downey recalled another section of interest.

“There was a portion of ‘Cover Up’ with photographs, in a middle section of the book, which identified individuals we would be interested in speaking with,” Downey said. “I told him [Lance] that I would be interested in contacting some of the persons.”

Recalling the remark he made about the book at a press conference announcing DeVecchio’s indictment, Downey said, “I think I said something like, ‘First thing you have to do in a murder investigation is to learn who’s who, and Peter Lance’s book was a springboard that helped us do that.’” Bederow and Grover failed to elicit testimony from Downey during their cross-examination that the indictment against their client came from immunized testimony. Barring any such finding it is likely the charges against DeVecchio will stand.

Lance is expected to take the stand today, after which Reichbach will confer with attorneys from both sides — including Brooklyn Assistant District Attorneys Joe Alexis, Monique Ferrell and Kevin Richardson — about the possibility of other witnesses.

The indictment against the one-time FBI agent alleges he provided information to Scarpa Sr., who then allegedly used it to murder rivals in the bloody war for control of the family in the late 1980s and mid-1990s.