Robert L. Redell made an impressive expert witness for the Justice Department in the four land condemnation cases in which he was called in federal court here.
His credentials: an engineering graduate of Michigan State University, master's degree in business administration from Marquette University and consultant on several large complexes, including a hospital in Texas, a nuclear testing facility in Maryland and the FBI headquarters here.
He was paid at least $10,000 for his work in helping the government persuade juries that property being condemned in D.C. - usually for the Metro system - was worth less than its owners claimed. But his testimony sounded fishy to an attorney who was representing the owners of one downtown tract, and the attorney started looking into Redell's background a little more closely.
The attorney, Martin J. McNamara, found that Redell's life and background did not appear to be as represented from the witness stand. McNamara said that among his findings:
The White Hospital that Redell said that he had worked on in Texas could not be found anywhere in the state. The Jack Tar Hotel, described from the witness stand by Redell as a large structure in Galveston, is actually an old two-story building. What Redell described as a large warehouse wharf complex in Traverse City, Mich., could not be found. The schools he claimed to have attended had no record of him.
McNamara took his findings to federal prosecutors.
Yesterday, Redell was indicted on four counts of perjury for his testimony in two of the land cases. The statute of limitations had run out on his other testimony, investigators said.
Redell, described as an approximately 50-year-old flashily dressed large man who gave an address during the trials in Woodbridge, has not been seen by investigators since he promised to meet with Justice officials to document his claimed background. FBI officials have traced him to Florida and then to Wisconsin, and a warrant was issued yesterday for his arrest.
Redell's association with the Justice Department apparently began more than seven years ago when the department needed an expert engineer in a case they were handing for the D. C. Redevelopment Land Agency. The Justice Department attoney working on the case asked RLA for suggestions, a department spokesman said, and the D.C. agency recommended that he talk to a Virginia corporation that worked on RLA projects.
The Virginia corporation recommended Redell, who was described by the firm's president yesterday as a part-time consultant "who had a beautiful resume" and whose wife worked full-time then for the firm.
"He talked the trade language well and gave the impression that he knew what he was doing," the firm's president said yesterday. "I didn't call his colleges to see if he had his degrees."
After his first stint as a witness, Redell was recommended by the Justice Department attorney fo other attorneys who might need a similar expert.
A Justice Department spokesman said the credentials of many expert witnesses are taken at face value, explaining that the department doesn't have the capability of running FBI checks on all of them.
Redell, who also reportedly is known by the name of Robert N. Van Der Edel, was specifically charged with lying under oath when he testified about his credentials and his pastwork.
Three of the four charges deal with Redell's testimony in the condemnation of a plot of land near the Trailways bus station in downstown Washington.
In that trial before U.S. Dictrict Judge William B. Bryant, Redell said that he was an engineering consultant who had worked on the FBI headquarters building here , designed buildings at Syracue University and other schools in Northeastern states, and worked on the Nuclear Defense Laboratory at Edgewood Arsenal. Md., according to a transcript of his testimony.
Redell also said he had worked in Bolivia, Peru, Spain and Israel on various projects, the testimony continued.
It was during that trial that McNamara, prompted by his own expert witnesses, thought something sounded fishy about Redell. McNamara attempted to challenge Redell's credentials in court, but failed after Justice Department Land and Natural Resources Division attorney Frank Marden told the judge, "I have used him on many occasions: I can't believe that there is any question."
After the jury returned what McNamara felt was a low verdict for the property's value, the attorney began his check of Redell's credentials in earnest, he said.
He took his findings to the Justice Department, where attorneys called Redell and asked for an explanation. Redell reportedly scoffed at the complaints and said he would show up with his credentials for a 1 p.m. meeting one week later. Redell did not keep the appointment, McNamara said.
The other case in the indictment involved a piece of property at 14th and U Streets NW. Redell's allegedly false testimony came in a trial before U.S. District Judge Barrington D. Parker.
In that 1973 trial, Redell described himself as a "cost consultant and a builder" who had worked with the Rockefellers and claimed to have designed portions of the Forrestal Building in Southwest Washington as well as a Howard University dormitory.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Raymond Banoun of the fraud division said investigators have not been able to trace Redell's background to the extent that they are certain of his actual experience and qualifications.