Lawyers for Waters want ethics to halt probe for evidence

Stanley Brand and Andrew Herman sent a letter to the ethics committee on
Wednesday, taking issue with the panel’s ongoing investigative activities after
the formal probe was over and Waters was charged with violating House rules. An
investigative subcommittee of the ethics panel conducts the probe and issues
formal charges in a document known as a Statement of Alleged Violation (SAV).

inquiry violates both the Committee’s rules and comparable federal criminal
procedure and raises significant questions about the sufficiency of the
evidence that the Investigative Subcommittee replied [sic] upon when it issues
the charges contained in the SAV,” wrote Brand and Herman. “Most alarmingly, it
calls into question the impartiality and good faith of the Investigative

lawyers cite an ethics committee document request to Waters’s office that aides
received Aug. 17 and ongoing contacts and interviews with witnesses. The
information requested, they argue, relates solely to matters addressed in the
SAV. In addition, a top ethics committee aide threatened Waters with a subpoena
if she did not voluntarily provide the documents in question, according to
Brand and Herman.

Waters has
vigorously defended herself against charges that she violated House rules by
using her position to help a bank in which her husband owned stock and
previously served on its board. She has chosen to fight the allegations in a public trial.

Brand and
Herman point to ethics committee rules and “long-standing comparable federal
criminal practice and procedure” to make their case that the panel is outside
its bounds in gathering additional evidence in the case against Waters.

Committee’s rules are consistent and indeed appear to be based upon the
proposition under federal rules that ‘[o]nce a defendant has been indicted, the
government is precluded from using the grand jury for the sole or dominant
purpose of obtaining additional evidence,’ ” they wrote, citing the 1985
case of United States v. Moss.

attorneys also argue the investigative subcommittee was too quick in rejecting
Waters’s motions to dismiss the charges, and claim that makes the additional
evidence-gathering even more suspect.

Waters’s public trial could come sometime this fall —
during the midterm election season — and lawyers for the ethics committee
likely already are preparing for it. House ethics committee rules allow attorneys
for the ethics committee to prepare for the trial by asking for documents and
interviewing witnesses, but the rules are broad and don’t specify just how much
and what type of information they can ask for, leaving room for attorneys on
both sides to make their case.

Unlike criminal proceedings, however, the ethics
committee itself —not a judge — determines whether Waters’s legal arguments are
accepted or dismissed. For that reason, it’s unlikely the panel will halt its
activities after receiving the letter from Brand and Herman. 

The ethics committee traditionally does not discuss its
activities in a pending case and did not return a request for comment.

—This story was updated at 6:50 p.m.


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