The post-trial proceedings in the case of former congressman William Jefferson took a sordid turn today with the discussion of yet another allegation of an FBI agent having a sexual relationship with a witness. FBI agent John Guandolo appears to have had such a relationship with the government’s lead informant, Lori Mody. The government surprised many in the trial in declining to call Mody to the stand. Judge T.S. Ellis III refused to order a new trial and insisted that the defense had no proof that the relationship had an impact on testimony in the case or, more importantly, the verdict of the jury.
Lead FBI agent, Timothy Thibault did not inform the court or parties about the relationship until four days before jury selection began. Ellis then refused to allow the relationship to be discussed at the trial.
The government not only declined to call Mody but did not introduce her statements at trial. However, they did enter tapes of conversations between her and Jefferson in a sting operation.
Nevertheless, Ellis insisted that “Defendant offers no basis for concluding that the evidence of the Mody-Guandolo relationship was relevant to any matters in issue at trial and therefore admissible. . . There is absolutely no indication that Thibault knew about the relationship prior to June 5, 2009. Moreover, Thibault’s apparent failure to discover the relationship does not undermine the credibility of the matters of which he testified.”
That is pretty generous to the government. Yet, Ellis is likely to be upheld by the Fourth Circuit on such a question. The problem is that such relationships can go to the motivation of the key witness in the case as well as the motivation of one of the agents. The problem is that defendants are constantly told to “prove’ that the relationship influenced a case while being denied evidentiary hearings or discovery that would uncover such an influence.
The defense objected that the relationship should have been permitted as a subject of the cross-examination of Thibault. Ellis simply did not see how it would be relevant.
This is the second high-profile case in less than a year where an FBI agent has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a key witness and hiding that relationship. In the Ted Stevens case (also prosecuted in the Washington area), FBI whistleblower, Agent Chad Joy, disclosed a personal relationship between the lead FBI agent in the case, Mary Beth Kepner, and Bill Allen, the CEO of an Alaska oil services firm, here. It is beginning to look like agents are trolling for dates in high-profile cases. There is no indication of what punishment has been meted out in these cases, if any.
The allegation does shed light on the decision not to call Mody to the stand.
Of course, it could be worse. As we have been discussing, Charles Dean Hood was a bit alarmed in Texas when he found that the judge and prosecutor in his death penalty case were sleeping together. A Texas court has ruled that it really doesn’t matter, here