Lance Armstrong investigation: Former federal prosecutor speaks about possible witness tampering charges
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lance Armstrong investigation: Former federal prosecutor speaks about possible witness tampering charges

by Shane Stokes at 8:17 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
States videos may not be not necessary to bring charges

Lance ArmstrongA former federal investigator has commented on the recent encounter between Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton, saying that if it is shown that if the Tour de France winner did threaten the latter, as has been claimed, that he could face serious consequences.

“If Tyler Hamilton has already testified in front of the grand jury and the grand jury indicts, then he would be a probable witness at any sort of proceeding against Lance Armstrong,” Sunny Hostin, a CNN legal contributor, told the station recently.

“So certainly it would be against the law for Lance Armstrong to try to threaten, to try to intimidate Tyler Hamilton because the sort of leap that you then make is [that] perhaps he was doing that because he doesn't want Tyler Hamilton to testify against him.

“Witness tampering in federal court is very serious. It's punishable up to 20 years in prison and possible fines. And so I would say [that] if the FBI is asking for videotapes of that encounter at that restaurant, which my understanding it's been reported that they are looking at that, [then] that spells some serious allegations.”

The encounter took place on Saturday June 11th in the Cache Cache restaurant in Aspen. Hamilton was in the town as he was due to lead bike rides at an annual summit hosted by Outside. He had previously given a lengthy interview to the CBS 60 Minutes programme, in which he stated that he, Armstrong and others used banned substances and methods while part of the US Postal Service team.

Armstrong has continuously denied any suggestions that he doped, and his spokesman Mark Fabiani has dismissed Hamilton as someone who is not credible, and out to get a publishing deal. The Texan and the team remain the subject of a lengthy federal investigation.

Reports vary about tense meeting of former team-mates:

Outside magazine editor Abe Streep reported what happened when Hamilton and Armstrong met in Cache Cache. It was initially suggested that the encounter may have been simply down to chance, but the restaurant owner Jodi Larner, a friend of Armstrong, later confirmed that she had informed the former pro that Hamilton was there having meal.

According to Hamilton, Armstrong stopped him as he walked through the restaurant. “He wanted to get into it,” Outside magazine editor Abe Streep reported Hamilton as telling him. “I was like, ‘Let’s step outside and talk away from the crowd, but he wouldn’t. He said, ‘No one cares.’"

Streep said that Armstrong began to berate him. Armstrong has denied this, saying that he simply asked him ‘hey, what’s up?’ He said that the exchange was ‘certainly awkward for both of us’ but that it was ‘truly uneventful.’

Each side paints a very different picture of the exchange. ESPN quoted Hamilton’s lawyer Chris Manderson as saying that Armstrong asked Hamilton repeatedly how much he was paid to do the 60 Minutes slot, and told him that that his legal team would “*** destroy you," "tear you apart on the witness stand," and "make your life a living *** hell."

Larner has played down the incident, saying that while the two talked, there were no threats made. She described it as a ‘non-event.’

The FBI then sought to verify exactly what happened. Speaking to the New York Times, Larner confirmed that a federal agent had spoken to her and said that tapes from the restaurant would be taken for examination.

While images of the restaurant displayed on its website show cameras in the dining area, she has claimed that these are non-functional and only those from the kitchen area of the restaurant currently record. Agents travelled to the restaurant last week to examine the recordings and take statements.

While there have been no reports since about what they did or did not discover, they will have acted to verify that those cameras were indeed non-functional, and that no efforts had been made to delete recordings.

Tapes not necessary to bring tampering charges:

According to Hostin, even if no images are available, Hamilton’s word may be enough to bring charges. “If Tyler Hamilton talks to the FBI and then says, ‘you know, I did feel intimidated, I did feel threatened, Lance Armstrong said this to me,’ that would be enough for witness tampering,” she stated.

“It's not usually the case that you actually have a videotape of witness tampering. Witness tampering usually occurs on a side street. It usually occurs at someone's home. Sometimes it's just the mere presence of someone staring down at someone else.

“When I was a federal prosecutor, I had to deal with witness tampering, especially with gang cases. And so Tyler Hamilton, talking to the FBI, that would be enough to sustain a witness tampering charge.”

Investigators will also take note of any other attempts to interact with potential witnesses. VeloNation understands that many people have already given statements to the Grand Jury, and that the case is continuing to grow.

Armstrong denies taking any banned substances during his career. He dismisses Hamilton, Floyd Landis and others as not credible.

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