[Back to Interviews & Articles

Tape seized in corruption case has Nixon-esque gaps
Associated Press
May 17 2005

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- A surveillance video seized by the FBI last fall contains minutes-long gaps, attorneys said Tuesday, adding intrigue to a case against former members of Gov. John G. Rowland's administration that already includes buried gold and trips to Las Vegas.

Defense attorneys suspect FBI agents may have illegally erased part of the tape and asked a judge to let them test it.

"The first thing you should check for is Rose Mary Woods' presence," U.S. District Judge Peter Dorsey said Tuesday, referring to President Nixon's secretary, who said she inadvertently erased part of a crucial Watergate tape, creating an 181/2-minute gap.

FBI agents seized the tape last September from private investigators who, at the behest of a state contractor charged with corruption, was conducting surveillance on the government's key witness.

Attorneys for the contractor, William Tomasso, say FBI agents roughed up their investigators and repeatedly dropped their camera equipment. Defense attorneys say they don't know why that is not on the videotape.

"It's not a case where it wasn't running or it had been turned off," attorney John J. Vecchione said.

The missing video segments are the latest puzzling details to surface in the corruption case that has gripped Connecticut for two years.

Federal agents allegedly discovered buried gold at one state official's home and state impeachment investigators never figured out who flew with Rowland to Las Vegas. Those free trips ultimately led to his December guilty plea on a corruption charge.

FBI agents seized Tomasso's videotape as part of their investigation into whether his private detectives were harassing Rowland's former deputy chief of staff, Lawrence Alibozek, who is cooperating in the case that sent Rowland to prison for a year.

Tomasso and Rowland's former co-chief of staff, Peter Ellef, are accused of contract steering in the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Jongbloed said there's no evidence of harassment on the tape, but he said the government has not returned it to Tomasso because of the allegation that it was altered.

"If somebody at the FBI tampered with that tape, then there have to be administrative inquiries," Jongbloed said.

He said he wanted the tape analyzed at the FBI laboratory in Virginia, where outside observers are forbidden. Defense attorneys argued that it should be analyzed by a private firm, but Jongbloed said that would make it harder for prosecutors to use the tape as evidence if they determine someone doctored it.

Dorsey ordered the FBI lab to make a copy of the tape for Tomasso's expert and said both the FBI and the outside expert can analyze it.

Defense attorneys have said prosecutors overreached when they charged Tomasso and Ellef with racketeering. If the tape turns out to have been doctored, defense attorneys said they could argue that it raises questions about other government evidence.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press

Back to Top