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City? Why were they railroaded to Fort Worth in such oppressive circumstances, serving no apparent law enforcement purpose? Wouldn't New York have been more convenient for all concerned-convenient for the witnesses, and convenient for the Department of Justice too?
Perhaps that question answers itself. From the beginning, the circumstances of this case have strongly suggested that it had nothing to do with Texas, and a great deal to do with a thinly veiled attempt by the Department of Justice, at the request of the Government of Great Britain, to harass Irish Americans in the New York City area engaged in peaceful protests against British policy toward Ulster.
Given the intensely political nature of this investigation, the predictably outraged response of the Irish American community in New York, and the fact that 1972 was a presidential election year, the convening of the grand jury in Texas may have had a great deal less to do with effective law enforcement than it did with the 1970 Census, which reveals nearly 400,000 first and second generation Irish Americans living in New York State, most of them in New York City, but only 12,000 in Texas, and very few in Fort Worth.
The conclusion that the Texas venue was improper for this investigation is also compelled by the analysis of the questions asked each of the Fort Worth Five before the grand jury. I have attached a copy of those questions as an appendix to this statement. Virtually every question that reveals enough information to disclose specific facts also reveals, without exception, that the facts relate solely to persons and places in the New York City area, and have nothing to do with Texas. The only questions that even clearly relate at all to Texas are blunderbuss questions of the sort that begin, “Have you ever known any person in New York, Texas, or elsewhere ..?"
If the Department of Justice still genuinely wants the testimony of the Fort Worth Five today, the only fair and rational course to follow is to discontinue this abusive grand jury investigation in Fort Worth, and continue it in New York City, where it should have been held all along.
The second abuse of the grand jury in the Fort Worth Case is that the Department of Justice is punishing these with lengthy prison terms under the guise of civil contempt. One of the principal causes of the violence and friction in Northern Ireland has been Britain's policy of interment without trial. Yet, today in Fort Worth, we find the Administration practicing its own version of internment without trial in Texas.
In a series of recent decisions, the Supreme Court has imposed strict controls on the length of sentences that can be meted out by a judge without a trial hv jurv in cases involving criminal contempt. The standard now is that a juage, acting alone, cannot impose a sentence longer than six months for criminal contempt unless the defendant is afforded a right to trial by jury.
I believe that a similar right, or some similar control, should also be available in cases involving civil contempt, in order to prevent precisely the sort of obnoxious and excessive punishment that exists in the present case...
In the Fort Worth Case, the Department of Justice still seeks to hide behind the traditional distinction between civil and criminal contempt. They argue that the current incarceration is not punitive because the Fort Worth Five can end their imprisonment as soon as they agree to testify before the grand jury.
But if the grand jury itself and the terms of their imprisonment are illegal, why should they have to testify or give up any other basic rights to gain their freedom? The condition the Justice Department seeks to impose as the price of freedom is too high-it is no more valid than if the Department agreed to release them on the condition that they henceforth refrain from exercising their First Amendment right to criticize British policy in Northern Ireland.
Indeed, that sort of First Amendment harassment is widely regarded as the Department's real goal in this present grand jury, just as the same allegation has been raised against many other grand juries convened by the Department of Justice in recent years to harass individuals and groups whose politics and philosophy do not sit comfortably with the present Administration.
The suspicion is very great, therefore, that the current investigation has two aspects, the first aspect, the grand jury in New York City, is engaged in a professional and lawyer-like investigation of gun-running to Northern Ireland, Indictments have been returned and trials will follow. But the second aspect, more unsavory, is the Texas grand jury, convened for no apparent law enforcement purpose, a political grand jury sitting to harass and intimidate individuals and organizations in New York opposed to British policy in Ulster. There is a heavy burden on the Department of Justice to prove that the First Amendment rights and other rights of the Fort Worth Five have not been infringed, that their continued incarceration is not punitive and that it fulfills all the guarantees of due process of law...
It appears that the Fort Worth grand jury has long since discontinued its investigation of this case. There is no indication that the grand jury has sat for a single additional hour, or heard a single additional witness in this investigation since these five ineri were originally held in contempt in June of 1972. The seven other witnesses originally called before the grand jury are long forgotten, their subpoenas withdrawn. There appears to be no reasonable possibility that the investigation will ever be resumed, or that additional witnesses will ever be called in.
In this situation, the continued imprisonment of the Fort Worth Five is punishment pure and simple. Justice demands that they be freed at once, but the Department of Justice allows them to rot in jail. The smell is unmistakeable. The Department is punishing the Fort Worth Five in the guise of civil contempt.
The third abuse of the grand jury in Fort Worth is that the Department of Justice is continuing the incarceration of these men after indictments have already been returned in related investigations in New York...
It is unconscionable for the Department to use a grand jury to seek additional evidence on a case after an indicment has been returned. Going back over many years, courts throughout the country, including the Supreme Court, have condemned the practice. It is my understanding that the Department itself has consistently avoided this objectionable practice in the past. Why does it not adhere to that consistent tradition today?
Another indictment is also involved in the present case. One of the questions the Fort Worth Five refused to answer before the Texas grand jury concerned a notorious arms dealer named Agramonte who does business in Yonkers, New York. Agramonte was indicted in New York City in August 1972. In January 1973, he pleaded guilty to re duced charges, thereby closing the case. Yet, the Fort Worth Five are still in jail, two months after one of the obvious and principal targets of the Texas grand jury investigation had been indicted and pleaded guilty.
...It defies reason and the Constitution for the Department to use the grand jury to investigate a case that has already been closed by the Department's own actions...
Indeed, I would hope that the foreman of the grand jury and the
other members of the Fort Worth panel would take the initiative themselves, in accord with the ancient time honored role of grand jurors, and demand an explanation from the prosecutor as to why these five men must remain in jail...
POLITICAL GRAND JURIES TODAY
Unfortunately, the Fort Worth Case fits the now all too familiar and mushrooming recent pattern of grand jury abuse and secret inquisition by Justice Department officials around the country, a practice raising serious questions in Congress and the nation about the fairness and legality of the Department's current operations and abo the very security of our fundamental freedoms and basic liberties...
Sixteen years ago, the issue was put this way by Justice Hugo Black, perhaps the greatest champior of the Bill of Rights ever to sit on the Supreme Court:
Secret inquisitions are dangerous things justly feared by
he is held incommunicado.
The Fort Worth Five are not alone. In too many cases, infringement of basic rights is a way of life today for the Internal Security
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