A federal grand jury here has subpoenaed the office records of U.S. Rep. Richard Kelly (R-Fla.) in what appears to be the first formal move by the government toward the filing of criminal charges against any of the eight members of Congress caught up in the FBI's Abscam probe.
The FBI also yesterday obtained records from the Virginia attorney general's office on the U.S. Titanium Co. -- a firm linked to Sen. Harrison A. Williams Jr. (D-N.J.) in the undercover operation.
A spokesman in Kelly's office confirmed that the congressman had received a subpoena to turn over to the investigating grand jury by Friday, Feb. 22, his office appointment books, travel schedules, telephone logs and correspondence with certain individuals. Kelly does not have to appear before the panel.
Kelly is one of at least two congressmen who will be investigated by a federal grand jury here in connection with Abscam, according to sources. Allegations involving Rep. John Jenrett (D-S.C.) and possibly one other of the eight congressmen will be investigated here, the sources said.
The probes of the other congressmen probably will be conducted by federal grand juries sitting in Philadelphia and New York, the sources added.
Kelly, who reportedly was videotaped stuffing $25,000 in cash into his pockets, has admitted taking the money from the undercover agents and spending part of it. He denies any criminal wrongdoing.
Kelly said he took the money as part of his own investigation of a group of "shady characters" who were trying to buy special immigration bills for their Arab sponsors.
He said he put all $25,000 in the glove compartment of his car, ostensibly to protect his family, and then started spending it on "kind of a rotating basis," buying lunches and such. He said that when he returned the money after it was reported that he had taken it from undercover agents, he has spent $174.
Kelly, a former prosecutor and judge, said he gave the money back because the FBI "blew my case. When they blew the cover on their case, they blew the cover on mine."
The spokesman in Kelly's office said the grand jury subpoena "was routine, following up on the allegations." He said the requested material already is being assembled in Kelly's office, and he assumed it would be turned over to the panel.
Kelly was making appearances in his Florida district yesterday and could not be reached for direct comment on the subpoena.
The FBI compilation of data on U.S. Titanium from the Virginia attorney general's office grows out of an alleged deal in which undercover agents were to invest $100 million in that firm and in new titanium ventures. Williams was to use his influence to get government contracts for the firms.
Williams reportedly was to receive 18 percent of the stock in the new ventures to mine and mill titanium on Virginia farmland near Lynchburg, sources have said..
The Charlottesville Daily Progress reported yesterday that the FBI obtained documents on court actions taken against the company for a 1977 fish kill in a Virginia river. The documents reportedly included testimony given in the case by the president of U.S. Titanium and financial records obtained by the attorney general's office during the litigation.
Neither Williams nor the other six congressmen have received any grand jury subpoenas as a result of the Abacam investigation, according to aides in their offices yesterday.
A grand jury can subpoena individuals or records about individuals or companies. The practice here is that grand juries seldom subpoena potential targets of criminal charges until late in the investigation, but instead subpoena other witnesses and records of potential targets.