4 03-24-88 11:04 pes WHEELING, W.Va. (UPI) _ A federal prosecutor accuses U.S. District Ju
4 03-24-88 11:04 pes
WHEELING, W.Va. (UPI) _ A federal prosecutor accuses U.S. District
Judge Robert Maxwell of impropriety in opposing efforts to obtain a
special grand jury to investigate the Hare Krishna community of New
U.S. Attorney William Kolibash charged Thursday that Maxwell
engaged in a conflict of interest by hiring an attorney who represents
the Krishna to fight a federal petition in December for such a panel.
At the same time, Kolibash said he has formally asked Maxwell to
comply with a recent court ruling and convene a special grand jury
within a month or so.
Maxwell, who has battled Kolibash over empaneling a special grand
jury for nearly a year, could not be reached for comment.
But his attorney, James Lees, disputed that there was any
impropriety and said up until Thursday, despite widespread indications,
Kolibash never made it clear that he wanted to investigate the Krishnas
with a special grand jury.
"The guy can file all the motions he wants and he can say a
federal judge acted improperly. But to say that all now, after never
telling him why he wanted a special grand jury, is bull," Lees said.
Lees said Maxwell would likely make a decision next week on whether
to challenge a ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
Richmond, Va., that said Maxwell should have empaneled a special grand
jury as requested.
The court ruled March 18 that the Justice Department was not
required to inform Maxwell of the purpose of the special grand jury, but
only certify, as it did, of the need for one.
During the past 22 months, there's been a sweeping local, state and
federal investigation of the farm community, much of it focsed on the
suspected murder-for-hire of a dissident devotee in Los Angeles in May
Authorities are also examining matters ranging from child abuse to
a suspected illegal multi-million-dollar panhandling operation at the
mountain village 75 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.
Kolibash asked in his motion Thursday that Maxwell recuse himself
from ruling on a request by New Vrindaban last summer that the
prosecutor's office be removed from the case because of alleged
improprities. In doing so, Kolibash cited Maxwell's alleged conflict of
interest in having Lees as his attorney.
Up until Thursday, there had been no public word on why Kolibash
wanted a special grand jury, which, in fact, would examine more than one
In his motion, however, Kolibash cited a Jan. 11 letter Maxwell
sent to Lees regarding the sealed petition the Justice Department filed
with the appeals court Dec. 7, asking that Maxwell be ordered to convene
a special grand jury.
In it, Maxwell told Lees, "It would appear from the totality of
the record that before this court, and the petition that the only
suggested specific object of inquiry by the requested special grand jury
... is a murder conspiracy involving the Hare Krishna sect."
Kolibash also wrote in the motion that Maxwell's selection of Lees
as his attorney, rather than by a lawyer "not involved in pending
matters ... concerning the Hare Krishnas, carries with it the error of
This, Kolibash said, "could lead to a conclusion by a member of
the general community that the federal district court ... may want to
prevent the empaneling of a special grand jury."
"I don't think Judge Maxwell has done anything improper," Lees
said. "But it does appear that Judge Maxwell and Kolibash had a
Lees said up until Maxwell received that petition the government,
which had been seeking a special grand jury since spring 1987, never
said that New Vrindaban would be a possible target.
Maxwell, in turning down previous requests for a special grand
jury, which could meet up to 18 months, maintained that Kolibash's
office could rely on regular grand juries, which normally meet for just
On March 18, a three-judge panel of the court rejected Maxwell's
argument that the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney's Office could
not direct him to empanel a special grand jury.
The judges, however, stopped short of directing Maxwell to empanel
a special grand jury and instead gave him the opportunity to do so
"We conclude Judge Maxwell should have called a special grand
jury" and "we are confident that Judge Maxwell will take approriate
action in accordance with the views expressed here in," the appeals
Kolibash, in a motion filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in
Elkins, asked Maxwell to convene a special grand jury either April 26 or
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank