Lawyers, for the indicted Pallottine priest, the Rev. Guido John Carcich, have accused the state prosecutor of abusing the grand jury process by illegally intimidating witnesses to obtain the embezzlement charges.
In documents filed in support of a dismissal motion, Carcich's attorneys expanded the scope of the priest's defense into a personal attack against Assistant Maryland Attorney General Robert C. Ozer and a broad swipe at the grand jury system of investigation.
Through intimidation, harassment, arm-twisting and vilification, Ozer was said to have fashioned the grand jury into his "private vehicle for investigation by terrorism."
He was accused of threatening one out-of-state witness with a criminal arrest warrant for embezlement should he fail to appear before the gand jury. Another reluctant witness was led to believe that a hearing would be called to revoke his accountant's license should he fail to testify, the documents allege.
The greatest excalation, however, in this increasingly bitter court battle was the charge that Ozer tried to "break" accountant Donald E. Webster.
On Dec. 9 Webster put a gun to his head and committed suicide. A month later Carcich was indicted on charges of embezzling some $1.4 million donated to the Catholic charity for the poor and hiding another $15 million in secret bank accounts.
Brendan J. Sullivan Jr., along with the other attorneys for Carcich, alleged in documents filed yesterday that Webster had been the victim of Ozer's pressure tactics, that he had committed suicide just days after learning that he, too, would be indicted in the Pallottine case.
Because of a gag order issued by Baltimore Criminal Court Judge David Ross, Ozer said he could not comment on any of the allegations made against him and the office of the Maryland attorney general.
Beginning with a remark by a judge who felt that the "great institution of the grand jury . . . today is but a convenient tool for the prosecutors," Sullivan launched into a critique of that system as reflected by the particular Pallottine case.
Witnesses were questioned not only by prosecutors but by grand jury members themselves, the documents said, and the questions were irrelevant and often humiliating.
"In a particularly striking example, a grand juror was permitted to ask a priest if he went to confession and how he like going to confession.
Other infractions alleged included attacks by jurors on witnesses for being "nervous," for covering up, for not "coming across as an honest person" or for being a "rotten apple," the documents continued.
The abuse was alleged to have begun with interviews that "screened our" evidence or witnesses who might rebut the government's contentions against Carchich. Then, without legal representation and alone in the grand jury room with prosecutors who "make noises and facial expressions to announce their opinions to the grand jurors," witnesses were open to abuse.
Although the descriptions were especially vivid, the methods criticized and challenged as illegal are not so different from those used by almost every other prosecutor employing the grand jury method of investigation. Sullivan, in essence, was questioning the validity of the system in these documents.
"When the prosecutors tired of berating a witness, they would encourage the grand jurors to do so," the documents continued.
One witness was Jon E. Krupnick, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., lawyer whose role in the investigation was high-lighted in the documents. Sullivan alleged that Krupnick, an attorney for Father Carcich and the Pallottines, was harrassed first through publicity caused by the efforts of Ozer's office.
To gain Krupnick's testimony, Ozer subpoened him in Florida and imporperly filed on the public record documents to support his subpoena request, Sullivan alleged.
That request was challenged and while it was in the courts Ozer went into "Phase II" by calling up Krupnick's attorneys, Sullivan claimed and threatening to issue a ciminal arrest warrant charging Krupnick with embezzlement and fraud.
To force Donald Webster to "change his testimony," Ozer pressured the accountant in three major investigations aimed at him, Sullivan claims. First, Ozer leaked information to the Internal Revenue Service that led to an investigation.Secondly, Sullivan said, "it is believed that Mr. Ozer, or other persons in the office of the attorney general, triggered a separate investigation of . . . Webster by the State Board of Accountants.
Finally, Sullivan said that Webster was told he would be indicted before Carcich was, an attempt, in Sullivan's opinion, to push Webster into turning state's evidence and testifying against the priest.
The documents began with remarks about the integrity of Ozer. "Mr. Ozer returned to Baltimore, after an absence of several years, with a history of questionable prosecutorial conduct . . . and loss of employment as a federal prosecutor."
Then, quoting from magazines and newspapers, the attorneys tried to show that Ozer himself believes in "investigation by terrorism."