Former prosecutor might be disbarred for paying witnesses, others

Local,Crime,Caitlin Byrnes
A three-judge panel could disbar a former federal prosecutor who paid for information in two high-profile drug-related gang homicides and a sexual assault case in the 1990s. If successful, it will be the first federal prosecutor disbarred in the United States in more than a decade. Former federal prosecutor G. Paul Howes was brought before a District Office of Bar Counsel panel on Tuesday for violating six rules of professional conduct, including false statement of material fact and engaging in conduct that seriously interfered with the administration of justice. In three Superior Court cases, Howes gave money to not only unqualified witnesses, but to many non-testifying associates.

The average money voucher, aimed to reimburse non-incarcerated fact witnesses for a full day of testifying in a non-Superior Court trial, is $40. Howes gave multiple vouchers a day to witnesses, many who were unqualified to receive any voucher because of incarceration or testifying in the course of their job, and their colleagues.

Howes told the court that the vouchers to non-testifying recipients were given because they participated in phone calls that were either used as evidence -- though the phone calls cited were recorded without the recipient's consent -- or to build witness support.

"As we looked at it then, anything that walked though my door that had to do with the investigation that spring, that became what was called the Newton Street [Crew cases], got paid under that caption," Howes testified before the panel. "That wasn't right as I understand the regulations today, but it was our practice."

Clarice Haywood, girlfriend of a government witness in a 1993 D.C. Superior Court case, received $2,036, despite not testifying in the case. This was in addition to the $3,750.65 paid to her boyfriend, witness Irvin Pittman. He was paid for testifying from late September 1993 to late March 1995, when he actually testified over 12 days in 1993.

D.C. police Detective Ronald Fluck received nearly $5,000 in vouchers for 68 days of appearances, mileage and food, when he only testified for one day, and it was in the course of his government-paid job, thereby waiving his right to a voucher. Similarly, David Belisle, a case agent who testified in the course of duty, was given nearly $10,000.

In all cases the defense was not told of the vouchers, giving grounds for appeal. Three felons originally handed multiple life sentences were reduced to less than 30 years in jail apiece, and five additional criminals were given heavily reduced sentences.

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