Government Lawyers Urge Reversal of Friedrick Case
WASHINGTON (AP) _ An appeals court is considering whether to reverse a lower-court decision suppressing a former FBI agent’s alleged admissions that he made false statements during an investigation of Teamsters President Jackie Presser.
Lawyers argued the issue involving former agent Robert S. Friedrick of Cleveland before the U. S. Court of Appeals on Thursday. ″I don’t have a prediction,″ said William Beyer, attorney for Friedrick, when asked how he thought the court would rule.
Friedrick was indicted in May 1986 on five counts of allegedly making false statements that forced the government to delay for nearly a year its planned prosecution of Presser.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Simon told the three-member appeals panel Thursday that during January 1986 interviews in which Friedrick admitted making the false statements there was no reason for him to believe that he was required to answer prosecutors’ questions or be fired since ″he already knew his job was gone.″
Ms. Simon said that following Friedrick’s admissions to a polygraph technician that he made false statements and obstructed justice in the Presser investigation, he was told by prosecutors that he faced possible criminal liability and that the purpose of their interviews with him would be to determine what his testimony before a grand jury might be.
Friedrick said that Presser had been authorized by his FBI ″handlers″ to hire ″ghost employees″ at a Cleveland Teamsters local who performed no work. The Justice Department wanted to prosecute Presser and aide Tony Hughes for the alleged ghost hirings, but abandoned the investigation after Friedrick’s assertions.
Friedrick admitted during the ensuing FBI-Justice Department inquiry that his statements about ″authorizing″ the illegal acts were false, according to tapes and transcripts provided by the Justice Department. His admissions revived the Teamsters probe, resulting in the indictment of Presser and Hughes.
However, Friedrick, who was fired last August, succeeded in having his alleged admissions suppressed last December in U.S. District Court on grounds that Justice Department interrogators did not advise him of his constitutional right to remain silent.
Beyer told the appeals court that his client’s alleged admissions were made involuntarily because Friedrick had been conditioned by previous interviews to believe that the January 1986 interrogation remained part of an on-going internal FBI administrative inquiry.
Under the FBI administrative inquiry process, Friedrick was required to answer questions or face discharge, but could not be prosecuted for any statements he made as long as they were true.