Should I get about 30 Republicans and all of the House Democrats and vote to hold the president in contempt of Congress? - congressman Dan Burton
What could cause Republican Dan Burton
to start threatening the President
of his own party with subpoenas? It's a story that so far has been under the radar
, but seems destined for the front pages. It's the story of Joseph Salvati
On March 12, 1965 Teddy Deegan, a small-time Boston hoodlum, was murdered. In 1967 six men were charged and convicted of the crime - Peter Limone, Wilfred Roy French, Lewis Grieco, Henry Tameleo, Ronald Anthony Cassesso and Joseph Salvati. Salvati and three others were sentenced to death. After four years on death row the sentences were reduced to life in prison when the United States Supreme Court struck down many capital punishment statutes in Furman v. Georgia.
The star witness for the prosecution was an FBI informant - Joseph "The Animal" Barboza. The FBI was using Barboza's testimony to convict Mafia members across the country. In return, Barboza would spend just three years in prison - depite admitting to 26 murders.
Meanwhile, the men convicted of Deegan's murder would spend decades behind bars. Tamaleo died in prison. Grieco - still trying to prove his innocence - died in prison in 1995. Limone and Salvati were getting old. After more than thirty years behind bars they were now in their 60's - and still fighting their convictions. Each had a wife and young children when convicted. Now they were grandfathers.
And then a bombshell struck. In December 2000 the FBI released documents that not only showed that Grieco, Tamaleo, Limone, and Salvati were innocent, but that the Bureau had known they were innocent all along. In fact, the Bureau had known that Deegan was going to be murdered two days before the hit and who the hitmen would be. Not only did they do nothing to prevent the murder, they allowed innocent men to be convicted of the crime.
In January 2001 Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Margaret Hinkle vacated Mr Limone's conviction - he was freed from prison. Two weeks later the same judge vacated Salvati's conviction. While courts, defense lawyers, families of the convicted men, and the Boston public were outraged - a former FBI agent who had remained silent, was not remorseful. The FBI felt that protecting their informant - Barboza had actually taken part in the hit - was more important than the lives of innocent men. When brought in front of Burton's committee the former agent, H. Paul Rico, opined:
Remorse - for what? Would you like tears or something? I believe the FBI handled it properly.
Subsequently Burton's congressional committee informally requested 13 memos related to prosecution decisions and later subpoenaed them from the United States Department of Justice
. On Dec. 12, 2001 President George W. Bush
announced that none of the materials would be supplied to Congress because they are deliberative in nature and, thus, fall under executive privilege
After the President's refusal, Burton had harsh words for the administration,
Our government put an innocent man in jail for 30 years, and you don't want us to know why.
Whether it be Vice President Dick Cheney's
energy Task Force, the Presidential Records Act
, or 35 year old FBI documents, The Bush
administration displays an ever-increasing penchant for secrecy
. The Sierra Club
and Judicial Watch
are aleady suing the administration to get records released. The GAO
plans to sue as well. Now add Dan Burton
to the list. If nothing else, George W. Bush
has created some strange bedfellows.