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HOW THE FEDS LEARNED TO PROTECT WITNESSES–PART SIX

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement on June 7, 2010 at 8:15 am

The number of guards assigned to a protected client of the Witness Security Program varied from case-to-case.

A security Inspector might decide that one witness didn’t need any bodyguards, while another needed the usual, five-marshal detail. Or he might assign a small army of marshals to protect a notorious, hotly-pursued witness such as Robert Leuci, who later became the subject of the bestselling book, Prince of the City, by Robert Daley.

Leuci had been an ace narcotics detective for the NYPD. This made him extremely well-known among his 32,000 fellow officers. He had also spent sixteen months as an undercover investigator for the Justice Department, probing widespread narcotics corruption throughout the Southern District of New York. This made him a high-profile target for Mafia hitmen and corrupt police officers.

To counter this threat, John Partington, the security Inspector for the Northeastern United States, stashed Leuci and his family at an isolated cabin in the Catskill Mountains. No fewer than eighteen marshals, working in three, eight-hour shifts, protected the Leucies. When Leuci appeared in New York to meet with prosecutors or testify in court, he was guarded by specially-screened NYPD officers.

Leuci proved more fortunate than the vast majority of witnesses. He and his family didn’t have to be quartered on a military base. “Witnesses on military bases aren’t allowed to leave the base,” said former Witness Security Inspector Richard St. Germain. “They’re put up in a house or an apartment, and have the use of the officers’ club.

“At a SAC [Strategic Air Command] base that’s very well-guarded, witnesses can go to the movies at night. Only one guard—not three or four, as is usual—is assigned to the witness on these occasions. Once the witness leaves the base, it’s a different story.” But military bases—owing to their requirements on behalf of national security—often did not have space available for civilian guests.

Nor did the Leucies need to be shifted every three to five days from one motel to another. Under this procedure, the marshals took over the entire floor of a motel. They rented one room for the witness (and his family, if he had one) and two or three adjacent rooms for themselves. But this arrangement provided the witness with only temporary security.

“Say you take [a witness] to a motel, or rent an apartment,” said Richard St. Germain. “People get inquisitive.” During the security detail he commanded for Peter Harry Coloduros, a hulking witness against the Los Angeles Mafia Family of Nick Licata, one of the marshals had an automatic shotgun.

“One of the guys left it behind the door one day and when a maid cleaned the room she saw it. Nothing was said, but when they see that…. And then we couldn’t wear guns when she was around, we had to hide them, put them away.

“People think, ‘Here’s two or three guys watching another apartment. What the hell are they doing?’ People get inquisitive, so you don’t stay there too long. You’ve got to watch. You can tell when they get inquisitive. Then you just go ahead and say, ‘We’ve got to leave.’ So you stay in a motel for about a week. That’s about all you’re welcome.”

Copyright@1984 Taking Cover: Inside the Witness Security Program, by Steffen White and Richard St. Germain

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