Murder, She Testified

A federal grand jury aims at a fledgling author's notes in a long-running murder probe

"I don't have the money," says Leggett. "That's the problem. And I don't have a publisher behind me. I'm feeling just very helpless right now. And I don't know what to do.

"This book has basically sunk me. I feel like the more I've found out, the more trouble I've gotten. It makes me never want to write nonfiction again."

Leading the investigation is Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Clark, who headed the successful murder prosecution of polygamist cult leader Aaron LeBaron in 1997. Clark did not return calls from the Press. However, attorney Mike Ramsey, who represents Angleton, says he believes forcing Leggett to surrender her notes and tapes is a violation of the First Amendment, although he also calls it "a tempest in a teapot" since Leggett previously turned over her interview material to the state grand jury. Those tapes are already in the hands of federal authorities. Ramsey also has no doubt about which way the feds are coming at his client.

"They're going to retry the murder case," says Ramsey. "That's No. 1. Now, they'll do anything else they can do. They'll reach for taxes. They'll reach for money laundering. They'll reach for all the traditional federal things."

Ramsey maintains that federal authorities may be reluctant to go after Angleton on the tax or money laundering issues. That's because Angleton also has done some informing for federal investigators as well as HPD, Ramsey says. He refuses to say which cases Angleton has worked for federal authorities.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, who took office after his predecessor's decision to refer the case to federal authorities, was out of the office last week and not available for comment.

The Justice Department would be violating its own internal policy by prosecuting Angleton after he's already been acquitted by a state jury, Ramsey insists. He points specifically to what is known as the department's Petite policy, which sets out guidelines to determine whether to bring prosecution in cases already handled in other state or federal proceedings. According to a June 6, 2000, article in the New York Law Journal, "The policy precludes such a prosecution unless the matter involves a substantial federal interest which was demonstrably unvindicated in the prior proceeding, and the government believes that the defendant's conduct constitutes a federal offense as to which there is probably sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction." The article goes on to say that an assistant U.S. attorney general must approve any such prosecution under the Petite policy.

"That means that they are not supposed to reprosecute after state acquittal unless there are extenuating circumstances," says Ramsey, "and there are none. It's just that the D.A.'s office got a bloody nose and doesn't like to lose."

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