Friday, January 11, 2008

Immunity Demands on Capitol Hill

Immunity has become an issue in two high-profile Congressional investigations: the House Oversight and Government Affairs hearings on steroid use in baseball and the House Intelligence Committee session on the destruction by the CIA of the interrogation videotapes in 2005.  Jose Rodriguez, the former Director of the CIA's National Clandestine Service who order the tapes be destroyed, has informed the Committee through his attorney, leading white collar practitioner Bob Bennett, that he will not testify unless granted immunity by Congress.  Given that the Department of Justice has initiated a criminal inquiry into the decision to destroy the tapes, it is unlikely that an immunity grant will be forthcoming because it would, in all likelihood, mean that no criminal charges could be brought against Rodriguez.  As the one responsible for the destruction, it's unlikely the Department will acquiesce in an immunity grant, and Democrats on Capitol Hill are unlikely to give a free pass in a case that could be used for political gain.  An AP story (here) discusses the immunity request.

Over at the steroids hearings, Brian McNamee, former trainer for Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, has asked for immunity as a condition for testifying at the now-rescheduled February 13 session of the Committee.  It is not entirely clear what arrangement McNamee has with federal prosecutors in providing information to Senator Mitchell, which included the allegations about Clemens.  Earlier media reports indicated that he was operating under a letter agreement with the Department of Justice, essentially a "Queen for a Day" limited immunity arrangement, and not a full grant of immunity.  According to an AP story (here), McNamee meet with federal agents again on January 10, which in all likelihood would be based on a "Queen for a Day" agreement.  McNamee has asked for a grant of statutory use/fruits immunity before testifying at the hearing, which I suspect indicates that he has not been granted that level of immunity to this point.  Most limited immunity agreements allow prosecutors to use the information provided to gather additional information against the witness, and in some cases if the person is prosecuted later to use the statements at trial.  If Congress grants immunity, then none of the statements can be used in any way, giving McNamee greater protection.  I'm not aware of Congressional committees giving the more limited "Queen for a Day" immunity like U.S. Attorneys offices do, so McNamee's attorney is protecting his client and seeking an arrangement that would make it almost impossible to prosecute him down the road for providing steroids and HGH to players.

The wild-card witness in the steroids hearing may be former Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, who has been invited to testify along with McNamee, Clemens, and Pettitte (and also Kirk Radomski, who had no direct dealings with these players but supplied some of the substances involved).  It's not clear why Knoblauch is included in the case, although according to a story on ESPN.com (here) he shares the same agent as Clemens and Pettitte and was on the Yankees at the same time they were.  Knoblauch has neither admitted nor denied using HGH, as described in the Mitchell Report based on McNamee's statements.  Perhaps he is being called to bolster McNamee's statements if Knoblauch did received the HGH, but at this point he looks like the fifth wheel at the hearing.  (ph)

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