U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr., angry at actions a federal prosecutor took in the investigation into an alleged drug ring centered in Loudoun County, on Dec. 28 barred the prosecutor and two federal law enforcement officers from further participation in a grand jury investigation into the operation.
The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen P. Tandy, appealed the unusal action to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and a few days later won an temporary order allowing her to continue to work with the grand jury, sitting in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
On Tuesday it was disclosed that 26 people had been indicted Jan. 9 on charges of participating in a major marijuana and hashish operation that federal prosecutors said profited $100 million in the last 10 years.
Bryan's order and the transcript of the Dec. 28 hearing in his court in Alexandria make it clear that the case against one of the operation's reputed leaders, Robert B. Reckmeyer of Centreville, had been under way for more than a year and that Reckmeyer was aware he was being investigated. Reckmeyer, whose brother Christopher is also accused of being a leader of the operation, had appealed several subpoenas issued by the grand jury to the federal appeals court in Richmond.
It was Tandy's action following a decision on one of those appeals that got her in trouble. According to Bryan's Dec. 28 order, Tandy looked at several documents the court had ruled were privileged or confidential.
Bryan said in his order that because Tandy and the two federal agents had read the privileged documents, they "are disqualified and prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in the investiation now being conducted . . . . or any subsequent grand jury investigation of Robert B. Reckmeyer."
Tandy, who continues to head the government's prosecution of the case pending a further decision from the appeals court, said yesterday, "I have no fear that this will effect the case in any way." She said that the grand jury that handed up the indictments was not the same one she had worked with initially and that it "was not infected by any privileged documents. We went to great lengths to make sure of that."
She acknowledged that during the investigation she had looked at some privileged documents, but said, "I did nothing improper and anything I did do was inadvertent."