The FBI is investigating an obstruction of justice claim in the trial of whistle-blower Steve Jones' allegations about the Tooele Army Depot chemical arms incinerator, says Jones' attorney.
The suit is over Jones' claim that he was fired unjustly in 1994 as the incinerator's safety manager after only a few months on the job, because he raised safety issues. The defense, builder and operating contractor EG&G Defense Materials, Inc., says it was because he was a poor manager. The civil case, heard by Labor Department Administrative Law Judge Ellin O'Shea of San Francisco, ended on May 24 in Salt Lake City. O'Shea has not yet announced a verdict.Lawyer John Preston Creer, Salt Lake City, announced on the last day of the trial that a witness Jones wanted - Philip E. Krippner, a civilian safety specialist at TAD - had refused to testify.
Creer said Krippner had once said he would be willing back up something Jones said earlier in the trial: that within Jones' first few days at the incinerator, Jones told him he was nearly fired for suggesting that safety experts from TAD should help with plant inspections.
Creer could not force Krippner to take the stand, lawyers for both sides agreed, because administrative law courts lack subpoena power.
On April 19, Krippner signed an affidavit about the case, Creer added. He said Krippner had been willing to testify but later told Creer he would not testify. A sworn statement by Jones related that Krippner had told him two TAD officials pressured him not to testify.
One of the officials told the Deseret News he didn't "go wild" when speaking to Krippner and did not try to tell him not to testify, as alleged. Instead, he said, when he spoke with Krippner he was only surprised about the case. The other official referred the newspaper to Army public affairs officers, who did not provide a comment.
O'Shea refused to accept the Jones' and Krippner's affidavits about the matter as evidence but she invited lawyers for both sides to submit written arguments about accepting them.
Creer has now gone to the FBI.
"As an officer of the court, I sent it out," he said of documentation he turned over to the FBI. "I just sent the material over to the FBI and they have commenced an investigation."
The possibility he wants the FBI to check into is "technically called obstruction of justice," he said.
Creer said the FBI has informed him it is investigating. FBI agents were not available to confirm that on Friday, because of the Montana standoff with the Freemen.