Monday, June 1, 2009

The Judicial Lynching – Part VI –The Abuse of the Grand Jury Process

The last of six incidents that I will cite as driving Jeane to such despair as to take her own life stems from the proceedings before the Grand Jury which resulted in her indictment. As Jeane would write shortly after her conviction: “The injustice here is akin to a flat out lynching. If anything, [Judge] Robertson should have dismissed the criminal indictment (permanently) and simultaneously done the same for the civil case, in light of Couvillion’s behavior. Had it not been for Blair’s papering efforts several months ago, we never would have discovered Couvillon’s criminal action. No doubt, the Alexandria discovery was a fluke. I only can imagine how much other improper and downright illegal acts she undertook in the course of the investigation to get me. Jeane.

What Jeane was referring to by stating: “Couvillon’s criminal action” was significant not only for how it revealed the base behavior of the government, but as another straw of injustice on Jeane’s back. Jeane had told me that she had been arrested in 1996 by the Alexandria Police Department for promoting prostitution. However, due to the improper behavior of the arresting officer, Sgt. Harold Duquette, Jeane’s arrest, along with a score of other vice arrests by Sgt. Harold Duquette, had been dismissed and then expunged by court order.

An expungement order is accorded a high degree of respect. Indeed, the Virginia Code criminalizes the disclosure of expunged records: "It shall be unlawful for any person having or acquiring access to an expunged court or police record to open or review it or to disclose to another person any information from it without an order from the court which ordered the record expunged." VA. Code Ann..19.2.392.3(A).

Among the reasons I had subpoenaed the records from all the Metro-D.C. police agencies was to uncover what Alexandria PD had on Jeane’s arrest. The materials the Alexandria PD provided me in response to the subpoena included a copy of an October 31, 2006, letter from Sgt. Harold Duquette, now a former Alexandria Vice and Narcotics officer, to Inspector Maria Couvillion of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. That letter demonstrated that the records concerning Jeane’s arrest and the arrest of another alleged participant in matters under investigation in Alexandria in 1994 had been expunged. Because they were expunged, Sgt. Duquette stated that he could not refer to the involved individuals by name and he had to blacken certain identifiers from the arrest and investigation reports. In the letter, Sgt. Duquette attempted to finesse the restrictions on the use of expunged information by directing Inspector Couvillon to potentially unexpunged records in Montgomery County, Maryland.

A review of the letter reveals that Sgt. Duquette’s redaction efforts were disingenuous, ineffective, and incomplete as the names of certain involved persons, including one person whose records were supposed to have been expunged, are clearly reflected in the documents. Although Sgt. Duquette had clearly violated the Virginia Criminal Code, what Inspector Couvillion did next was much more damaging to Jeane.

First, in January 2008, the government filed notice that it intended to use the circumstances of the Alexandria arrest as evidence of Jeane’s prior bad acts if she took the stand. In its publicly filed Government’s Notice of Intent to Introduce Evidence Pursuant to Fed. R. Evid. 404(b), the government stated: “Furthermore, on November 25, 1996, the defendant was arrested in Virginia and charged in the Circuit Court of Alexandria with receiving money from the earnings of a prostitute in 1994. This arrest arose in the context of defendant operating Pamela Martin and Associates. It is the facts and circumstances that led to defendant’s arrest which is the evidence that the government seeks to introduce under Rule 404(b).” Preston Burton would never push the propriety of this public notice by forcing Judge Robertson to rule upon whether it violated VA. Code Ann.19.2.392.3(A). 

Second, under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a defense attorney does not get to see the grand jury testimony of a government witness until shortly before trial. In this case, Preston did not see Inspector Couvillon’s grand jury testimony until mid-March 2008. When he did, he found something extraordinary: Inspector Couvillion had told the grand jury about the expunged arrest of Jeane in 1996 in Alexandria. Preston promptly moved to dismiss the indictment stating: “The government may not willfully rely upon expunged information in presenting, indicting, and investigating its case and this matter should be dismissed. The Court may dismiss an indictment pursuant to its supervisory powers where the government violates rules designed to ensure the integrity of the Grand Jury’s functions." United States v. Williams, 504 U.S. 36 (1992).

On April 11, 2008, Judge Robertson denied the motion upon the grounds that Preston had not shown a sufficient taint of the grand jury proceeding. However, Jeane was wounded once again by a process that promises justice but delivers something far, far less. That wound, along with others I have identified and many I cannot now identified all contributed to Jeane’s despair driving her to take her own life on May 1, 2008.


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