4 03-24-88 11:04 pes WHEELING, W.Va. (UPI) _ A federal prosecutor accuses U.S. District Ju

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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 Vrindaban. 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 1986. 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 criminal case. 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 impropriety." 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 communication problem." 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 six months. 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 voluntarily. "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 court said. 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 May 2.

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