Alexandria Circuit Court Judge Donald H. Kent refused yesterday to unseal documents that attorneys for Alexandria Police Chief Charles T. Strobel argued are vital for his defense on federal charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
Attorney Plato Cacheris had asked for the final report of a special state grand jury that investigated the Alexandria Police Department last year and for transcripts of testimony by Elsie Munsell, former U.S. attorney in Alexandria.
Cacheris said he believed Munsell "testified as to matters that occurred before a federal grand jury," in violation of federal rules. The federal and state grand juries were simultaneously conducting similar investigations.
Munsell "never told the state grand jury what the federal grand jury was doing . . . except to offer cooperation and to ensure they were not covering the same thing," said Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., who was special counsel to the special state grand jury and opposed the release of the papers. Only a summary of the panel's final report was made public last year.
"She was not subpoenaed; she was not sworn and she was not there as a witness," said Horan, who did not attend the hearing in Kent's chambers but spoke through a speaker telephone. Munsell declined to comment yesterday.
Strobel was indicted Feb. 20 for allegedly lying to the federal grand jury about how he handled allegations of sexual misconduct by police officers.
Cacheris said he intended to file motions next week that "will attack the federal grand jury" that indicted Strobel on the grounds that there was a secrecy violation. "We are going to seek to have that federal indictment dismissed."
Horan said Munsell appeared before the special grand jury "as peacemaker" after one of her assistants, Justin Williams, was subpoenaed by the panel after testimony from a witness who said he had already testified before a federal grand jury. The witness said he told the federal panel about a tape recording with allegations of prostitution and that "he'd been told not to give us [the state panel] the tape," Horan said.
"The state grand jury became incensed . . . . They felt a witness had been told to withhold information from them," he said. They also were upset because it appeared two grand juries were overlapping.
Munsell appeared at the state panel instead of Williams, with a letter signed by him. Horan recalled it stated that Williams "had not told anybody not to testify before us."
Cacheris said yesterday he intends to subpoena that letter and Munsell.