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December 22, 2016
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September 2, 2010
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February 8, 1984
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STAT Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2010/09/02 :CIA-RDP90-005528000605700026-7 Starting Over Giving New Identities To Federal Witnesses Draws Increasing Fire By STnNLE1' PENN sLQJ.f RC pOTLET OJ THE WALL STREET J OURNAL Despite Some Success, Critics Say Lax Supervision Lets Many Go Back to Crime Strains of a New Beginning While conceding ~ the need to restrict knowledge of a protected witness's where- ' abouts, some local prosecutors strongly urge that the Justice Department tighten supervi? Sion of the offenders it places in their com- munities. Ted Wilson, the chief of the organ- ized-crime unit of the Harris County, Texas, '. district attorney's office, says those respon- si61e for protected witnesses "need to know what the witness is doing. Somebody must be on top of this." ' The Justice Department's U.S. Marshals Service has the task of relocating witnesses, providing them with new identities and help- ing them find jobs. But it isn't responsible for keeping track of their whereabouts. Indeed, it wasn't until 1978 that the gov- ernment required federal supervision of criminals entering the program as federal probationers. In 1981 it extended such super- vision to federal parolees. State parolees and probationers in the program still aren't federally supervised. The Justice Department stresses that it recently has tightened screening of appli- cants to the program. Thus, in fiscal 1983, only 294 witnesses: were accepted, a sharp drop from the roughly 450 people who en- ' tered annually during the mid-1970s. Appli- cants now also receive psychological testing . to weed out those who are violent. The stress associated with assuming a new identity may explain why some wit- nesses lapse back into crime after going into hiding. "I wouldn't advise clients to go into it," says Houston defense attorney Roy Beene of the witness program. "You are taking a guy off the street, sending him 1,000 miles away where he never lived, nobody knows him, where he has a funny accent. He's now John Doe, has his family with him and has to find a job. It's not easy." Until they find work-up to about a year-protected witnesses receive a monthly living allowance ranging from 51,000 for a single person to 52,800 for a fa.mfly. (More than 7,000 family members have been relo- cated along with witnesses since the pra gram's inception.) The stipend ceases if a witness refuses to take a job. In trying to place witnesses, many of whom have limited job skills, the marshals service makes contact with a roster of about 150 corporations. "We want to make sure that the company we contact is not a target of an organized-crime investigation or asso- ciated with organized crime," says Howard Safir, assistant director of the marshals ser- vice. Aprospective employer knows that the witness has committed a crime, but isn't told his true identity. The Justice Department says that it now ; assists creditors by threatening to reveal the whereabouts of a witness who fails to meet his obligations, provided the witness's safety isn't jeopardized as a riSsult. Janet Schlachter of Washington, D.C., says she was left penniless when her hus- band, Douglas, vanished into .the witness- protection program in late 1981. "I couldn't pay the debts he left behind," she says. "I couldn't pay the utility bills. We went for 10 days without gas and hot water." Particularly galling, Mrs. Schlachter ; says, was the living allowance that the gov- i ~ernment furnished W Mr. Schlachter and the woman with whom he has been living. "But for me .and my children-nothing," Mrs. Schlachter says bitterly. "My children haven't seen a dentist in four years." Mr. Schlachter was associated with the notorious Edwin P. Wilson, who has been convicted three times in federal court for crimes involving his dealings with Libyans. Mr. Schlachter, after pleading guilty to weapons violations, drew aseven-year sen- tence in a federal court in Washington, D.C., last year. He served less than .six months, the result of his cooperating with prosecu- tors in the investigation of Mr. Wilson and others. According to E. Lawrence Barcella, a U.S. prosecutor involved in the case, Mr. Schlachter broke up with his wife and went to work in Africa prior to entering the wit- ness program. The Justice Department takes credit for inducing Mr. Schlachter to return to the U.S. and to work out a prop- erty settlement with his wife. (Mrs. Schlachter says she has yet to receive any money from the settlement.) Mr. Schlachter, the prosecutor adds, no longer receives federal subsistence. Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2010/09/02 :CIA-RDP90-005528000605700026-7