Westons Ordered to Testify
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 13, 1998; Page B01
Federal prosecutors surprised the parents of Russell Eugene "Rusty" Weston Jr. and other relatives with subpoenas during their first visit with the wounded suspect, ordering them to appear today before a grand jury investigating the deadly shootings at the U.S. Capitol.
Family members, who have cooperated with investigators since the July 24 shootings, were served the notice while visiting Weston at D.C. General Hospital on Tuesday afternoon. News of the subpoenas was made public yesterday by the suspect's father's attorney, one of four lawyers now representing Weston's parents, sister and brother-in-law.
The decision to serve family members with the subpoenas was criticized yesterday, both for its timing and for the location chosen to serve it. Henry W. Asbill, a prominent criminal defense lawyer now representing Russell Weston Sr., the father of the suspect, said the decision by prosecutors was "insensitive."
Asbill said a request to delay the appearance was denied but that attorneys have appealed the decision to Chief U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson. The appearance before the grand jury and the hearing before Johnson are both set for 9 a.m. today.
"The Westons were very surprised when it was served on them when they were visiting their son in the hospital," Asbill said.
"They don't object to the idea of testifying," he added. "It is a timing issue."
Once the subpoenas were issued, family members scrambled to find lawyers. The attorneys said they will ask Johnson to either quash or delay the subpoenas at today's hearing. If that fails, the family members probably will wind up before the grand jury.
Weston's parents, sister and brother-in-law, who have given numerous interviews in the weeks since the shooting, had hoped to get in and out of Washington without generating much attention. Now they must enter a federal courthouse that will be packed with reporters covering the grand jury investigation of the Monica S. Lewinsky matter. The courthouse has been surrounded with cameras on days when that grand jury is in session.
Kirby Behre, a former federal prosecutor who is representing the suspect's sister, April Callahan, said the family was given too little time to prepare for what could be a pivotal sworn account of Russell Weston Jr.'s mental history. Behre said a D.C. police detective interrupted the family's visit with Weston on Tuesday to deliver the subpoenas. The action not only upset the family, but it cut into the time they were able to spend with Weston, he said.
"This just shows a callous disregard for the sensitivity of the situation," Behre said. "Here they drove 16 to 18 hours to see their son, after being delayed for three weeks. They [prosecutors] catch them totally off guard and give them less than 48 hours to prepare for this."
Thomas Zeno, the executive assistant U.S. attorney for operations, declined to comment on the subpoenas or the criticism leveled by attorneys for the family. Zeno said the office does not discuss pending cases.
Weston was seriously injured in the shooting, which left two U.S. Capitol police officers dead and a tourist wounded. He is not scheduled to appear in court until next week at the earliest, and even that date is uncertain.
Weston suffered multiple gunshot wounds and has undergone several operations. He is held in a special locked ward at the hospital and is under the jurisdiction of the D.C. Department of Corrections. Ronald David, the hospital's chief medical officer, described him as "clinically stable."
Family members appeared at a brief news conference outside D.C. General yesterday but did not answer any questions. Russell Weston Sr., speaking for the family, thanked the hundreds of people who have contacted the family since the shooting, which he described as a "tragedy."
"We are very happy to have had the opportunity to see our son and happy to see that he is recovering," said the father, a retired food warehouse worker who walks with crutches. While he spoke, his wife, Arbah Jo, held hands with Callahan.
"Basically, we told him that we love him and that he has our support," the father said.
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