Thursday, March 30, 2006

TSA Attorney Is Target of Witness Tampering Investigation

Transportation Safety Administration attorney Carla Martin is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for possible witness tampering, according to a recently unsealed transcript from the Zacarias Moussaoui death penalty proceeding.  Martin provided a number of government witnesses a copy of the transcript of the first day of the proceeding in contravention of the court's witness sequestration order.  The revelation of her conduct caused a delay while U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema determined how to handle the violation, which nearly scuttled the government's case

Martin is admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania, a jurisdiction notorious at one time for its high bar passage rate, and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Virginia recused itself because her conduct directly impacted that office's attorneys in the Moussaoui case.  While Pennsylvania prosecutors will review the matter, the venue provision of the main federal witness tampering statute, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1512(h)(i), provides: "A prosecution under this section or section 1503 may be brought in the district in which the official proceeding (whether or not pending or about to be instituted) was intended to be affected or in the district in which the conduct constituting the alleged offense occurred."  That would require any charges be brought in either Virginia or the District of Columbia, where Martin worked at the TSA. Moreover, a criminal contempt proceeding for violating the sequestration order would have to be brought in the Eastern District of Virginia.  Whether any charges come out of the investigation remains to be seen, but Martin's conduct has stirred up quite a hornet's nest. An AP story (here) discusses the hearing transcript. (ph)

Investigations, Obstruction | Permalink

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