A senior Energy Department official and his wife, one of the lead attorneys involved in the Karen Silkwood case, were arrested this week on charges of growing and possessing marijuana after their 16-year-old daughter, armed with photographs of the plants, went to police.
Robert Jason Alvarez, 54, and Kathleen Marie "Kitty" Tucker, 55, of the 600 block of Kennebec Avenue in Takoma Park, were arrested Monday and each charged with the manufacture and distribution of marijuana, possession of marijuana and conspiracy to manufacture and possess marijuana.
The couple's attorney said yesterday that the daughter, Kerry Tucker, was staying with family friends by order of a Montgomery County District Court judge. The attorney, Steven Kupferberg, would not comment further about her or discuss her reasons for contacting police.
Energy Department officials said that after his arrest, Alvarez, a political appointee, was fired from his job as a senior policy adviser in charge of environmental safety and health. Officials "lost trust and confidence in his ability to perform his duties," according to Brooke Anderson, a department spokeswoman.
Tucker was one of the anti-nuclear activists who brought national attention to the 1974 fatal car accident of Karen Silkwood, a lab analyst at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Plutonium Plant in Oklahoma. At the time of the accident, Silkwood was on her way to meet a reporter to discuss alleged safety problems at the plant.
Kupferberg said the charges against them "will eventually be lowered to simple possession." Police documents indicating that 69 marijuana plants were found in the couple's basement "are incorrect," he said.
"The number is closer to maybe 16 plants, small amounts," Kupferberg said, adding that Tucker uses the marijuana to treat migraines and fibromyalgia, a chronic muscle pain disorder. "She is totally disabled by these problems. She has Social Security disability for them."
According to police documents, Kerry Tucker told Takoma Park police on Aug. 19 that "a large amount of drugs" was in the basement of her home.
When the police went to the home that day, Kathleen Tucker opened the door, and police noted "the odor" of marijuana around her, the documents said.
They returned with a warrant and found 69 marijuana plants in the basement, along with lights and tools for growing the plants, and seeds and stems, according to police. In the bedroom, according to the documents, they found marijuana in canisters, pipes, rolling papers and books on growing marijuana. The police left without arresting the couple.
Tucker and Alvarez turned themselves in at the Takoma Park police station Monday. They were released on their own recognizance, according to Carol Bannerman, a police spokeswoman.
Both Alvarez and Tucker were widely known figures among anti-nuclear activists in the 1970s and 1980s.
Alvarez worked for public interest groups, focusing on the health effects of radiation and pushing for cleanup of nuclear waste contamination at government facilities. He went on to work for Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) at the Senate Government Affairs Committee and joined the Energy Department in 1988.
In the Silkwood case, after a 10-year legal battle over nuclear contamination that helped fuel widespread criticism of the nuclear power industry, Kerr-McGee agreed to pay Silkwood's estate $1.38 million. Subsequently, Tucker directed the Health and Energy Institute, a Washington public interest group focusing on radiation health issues.