The chief judge of the U.S. District Court here yesterday refused to block the government's demand for office records from Rep. Richard Kelly (R-Fla.) and denied Kelly's request for videotapes of his alleged role in the Abscam bribery operation.
Although he rejected Kelly's appeal for the tapes, Chief Judge William B. Bryant noted that widespread disclosure about the Abscam investigation "raises serious questions about prosecutorial misconduct." Those disclosures, Bryant said in a written opinion, subject Kelly to disgrace "for conduct not yet condemned in the courtroom."
Kelly's lawyers, who blamed Abscam leaks on the Justice Department, had argued that Kelly needed the tapes to defend himself against allegations of wrongdoing.
Bryant ruled, however, that the government's evidence would only be available to Kelly if he were indicted by a grand jury in connection with the Abscam case. If Kelly were indicted, Bryant said, he would have access to various procedures to neutralize "the damaging affects of undue publicity," including jury selection before trial and the option of requesting that the trial be held outside Washington.
To release the tapes before any grand jury action, Bryant said, would be "likely to result in more damaging publicity."
In connection with the documents, Bryant said Kelly could ask the court to review the records subpoenaed by the government to determine if they are protected from disclosure because they relate to Kelly's legislative activities.
Bryant, over Kelly's objections, said the government could sit in on such a review and contest any claims from Kelly that the records are protected. Despite the government's past record in the Abscam case, Bryant commented that he expected it would "maintain the confidentiality necessary" to conduct such a review.