I think we’ve got a leak from the grand jury in the SatTek case,” Peterson told United States Attorney Willie Rose at the weekly meeting of the senior staff in the windowless conference room on the eleventh floor of the Federal Building.
Spread around the table along with Peterson, as head of Securities Fraud, were the chiefs of Major Crimes, White Collar, Organized Crime, Anti-Terrorism, and the Drug Enforcement Task Force. All of them looked at Rose with uncertainty. The first black federal district judge in the Eastern District of California, Rose had resigned a year earlier to assume leadership of what the press called the “troubled” U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. And while each knew they had been promoted as part of Rose’s solution to the troubles, they all feared becoming vehicles for his political ambition.
“If we had somebody in Congress with balls enough to sponsor a constitutional amendment,” Rose said, “we’d get rid of the stupid thing. We don’t need a damn grand jury to tell us we have a case. We tell them. It’s a waste of our time and taxpayers’ money.” Rose tossed his pen onto his yellow legal pad, then looked over at Peterson. “Why do you think you’ve got a leak?”
Everyone at the table, and their assistants sitting behind them, alerted like golden retrievers. Peterson wasn’t a guy who said whatever happened to flit through his mind. If he raised an issue, he’d thought about it.
“We’ve had two grand jury targets murdered and one who barely survived.” Peterson glanced around at the others. “Some of you know him, Jack Burch. The dead ones are a chartered accountant in London named Fitzhugh, and Edward Granger, a venture capital guy who we had just told the grand jury would be coming in to testify as a cooperating defendant.”
“I thought Burch was road rage,” Rose said.
“That’s the party line, but I’m not sure. The later shooting that I thought was road rage wasn’t. It was domestic. The wife thought hubby was having an affair with a woman he jogged with in the mornings. But even if we set that aside, we have Fitzhugh and Granger. It’s like somebody is trying to contain the case and somebody in the grand jury is tipping them off.”
The tension in the room ratcheted up.
Rose shifted into cross-examination mode. “What’s your evidence?”
“It’s less evidence than a pattern. Shortly after I introduce the case to the grand jury, Burch and Fitzhugh get hit. Then we tell them that Granger is about to cooperate and he gets taken out.”
“What about Matson?”
“Nobody’s bothered him and he says he’s not afraid.”
Rose peered over at Peterson as if the solution was obvious. “Doesn’t that tell you that he’s somehow in on it?”
Peterson shook his head. “I’ve spent a lot of time with him. He doesn’t have the balls.”
“My guess is that there’s something we don’t know that connects Burch, Fitzhugh, and Granger that’s separate from Matson, and somebody doesn’t want it to come out.”
“Who were the stockbrokers?” asked Lily Willison, the leader of the Organized Crime Division, known as Mainframe because of her computerlike memory.
“Northstead Securities in San Diego. Kovalenko. Yuri.”
Willison looked toward the ceiling, searching her mental database, then back at Peterson. “He’s as gangedup as they come. Just like his dead brother. Maybe he’s the one trying to contain this thing.”
“I considered that,” Peterson said. “But as far as we can tell, Kovalenko’s only connection to SatTek was pump and dump. And he isn’t afraid of doing a couple of years. He won’t get involved in murder just to save himself a short vacation in minimum security. And even if it is him, the information about who to target had to come from somewhere.”
“Why not just ask the court to impanel another grand jury…” Willison hesitated, her face flushing. She swallowed, then finished the question, voice rising to a squeak. “And start over?”
The question hung in the air like a raised sledgehammer. Everyone knew, Willison most of all, that she was about to get thumped.
“Let’s back up,” Rose said, setting up the blow. “How many indictments has that grand jury issued?”
“Fifty, sixty, something like that,” Peterson said.
Willison’s interlaced fingers began to dig into the backs of her hands.
“How many defendants altogether?”
“Two hundred or so. Maybe more. They did two racketeering indictments with about thirty defendants each.”
Rose looked at Willison, then swung down. “Are you ready to disclose grand jury misconduct to two hundred defense lawyers? Ready to answer two hundred motions to dismiss? Maybe a hundred speedy trial motions? Maybe even a bunch of grand jury abuse motions? When we don’t even know for sure what happened?”
Willison shook her head, but held his gaze.
Rose reached for his pen, then began drumming it on the conference table, looking from face to face, lowered eyes ducking guilt by association.
“I see there aren’t any volunteers for a little motion exercise.”
Rose exhaled. It was moments like these that reminded him how much easier life was on the bench. He took the U.S. Attorney appointment only to get his name in the media to set up a run for governor, and planned to kick it off with Burch’s indictment and a no-one-is-above-the-law-time-to-get-the-big-time-lawyers press conference. But grand jury problems were messy. The public wouldn’t understand and the mess would slop back onto him.
Rose glanced at Peterson. “You and I need to visit the chief judge. Anybody have anything else?” Rose paused, then looked around the table. “No? Then we’re done.”
The chief judge cleared his calendar for the meeting, and later that day Peterson called Zink into his office.
“The chief judge authorized an investigation. I told Rose you’ve done great work on the case and you’re in the best position to connect the dots. He agrees.”
Zink settled into a chair across from Peterson. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, but this could spin out of control. You think any of the grand jurors will go to the press if they get wind of what we’re doing?”
“Only one I can think of.”
“Yeah, Number Six,” Peterson said. “And just wait until we have one grand jury investigating another. They’ll be giving me funny looks, wondering if we’re going after them, too.”
“Where do you want to start?”
“The attendance records and notebooks. They’re required to store their notes at the clerk’s office when they’re not in session. Let’s see who was present at each hearing and what they wrote. But let’s be careful we don’t focus too much on Number Six. Being a runaway doesn’t mean he’s the one. It’s a huge jump from being a little hyperactive to fingering people for hits.”
Zink glanced up in the direction of the grand jury room. “How will I get the notebooks?”
“The chief judge is sending an order to the clerk. He authorized you to make copies each evening after they’ve been collected. But you have to give the copies back to the clerk when your investigation is done. Same with the attendance records.”
Peterson paused, leaned back, and looked up toward the ceiling.
“I wonder if it’s just SatTek or if this guy, if it is a guy, is also doing this in other cases.” He glanced at Zink. “How about you get me the other indictments? I’ll find out if anything hinky happened in those cases. Maybe not murders, but witnesses knowing they’re about to be subpoenaed or targets getting advance warning of their indictments and making a last-second run. Maybe this guy shops his wares around to everybody.”
“Will Rose back you if this blows up?”
“Not if he wants to get elected governor. He’d never get past the primary.”
By the time Peterson arrived at Zink’s office the following morning, Zink had profiled each of the twenty-three grand jurors and posted leads from the jurors’ notebooks on a cork board tacked to the wall.
“I’ve got it reduced down to the three most likely,” Zink began after Peterson sat down next to his desk. “Number Six, Number Thirteen, and Number Twenty-two.”
Zink stepped to his chart, using a Bic pen as a pointer. “Number Six. Not only does he summarize everything, but he makes margin notes of his opinions. His favorite word is ‘asshole’…” Zink paused for a moment. “And he most often applies it to you.”
“He never liked you as a football player and is thrilled you never made it into the hall of fame. And he doesn’t like Matson, thinks he’s a scumbag. He wrote that he wishes this was a capital case and that he’d like to blow the brains out of anybody who was part of the scheme.”
“So he’s in the postal worker category.”
“Exactly. Number Thirteen maybe is just unlucky. He got caught talking about a case in the hallway. They all do it one time or another. The grand jury clerk told me she overheard the chief judge reading him the riot act. The guy was real upset. He begged to stay on. Maybe he became resentful enough to want to sabotage the whole thing.”
Peterson shook his head as if to say that this investigation would be going nowhere. “Another weak candidate.”
Zink nodded, then tapped Number Twenty-two. “But here’s a contender. What got my attention is that he wrote down Kovalenko’s patronymic not as ‘B-o-r-i-s-o-v-i-c-h,’ but as ‘B-o-r- y — s-o-v-i-c-h,’ old style. I figured he’s got a Russian background. And bingo. His family name was Toshenko. When his grandparents got to Ellis Island in the early 1920s, the immigration people anglicized it to Thomas.”
“That’s not unusual. It happened all the time.”
Zink raised his eyebrows. “Guess who his cousin is?”
“I couldn’t guess.” Peterson frowned, not in the mood for game playing.
Peterson sat up. “No fucking way!”
Peterson slammed his fist on Zink’s desk. Pens and notebooks jumped. The computer monitor shook. “Are you telling me that we’ve got a relative of a mobster who’s in the joint for jury tampering sitting on a federal grand jury? Rose is gonna go nuts…Did you look at his juror questionnaire?”
“No, they’re under seal. We’ll need a court order.”
Peterson stood up. “I’ll get an order for all of them. This is a fucking can of worms.” He looked at the chart, shaking his head. “I’m starting to wish I never opened it.”
He started toward the door, then hesitated and looked back at Zink. “Did it cross your mind that whoever wants all these other guys dead also wants to keep Matson alive?” He then turned away and marched down the hallway.