SECTION H8: GHOST SHADOW GANG
In a June 27, 1995, letter to the OIG, Whitehurst complained that EU examiner David Williams had prepared a Laboratory report related to the investigation into the criminal activities of the Ghost Shadow Gang -- a gang active in the Chinatown area of Manhattan -- in which Williams improperly presented an expert opinion concerning the main charge in an improvised explosive device (IED). Whitehurst alleged that Williams stated opinions for which he lacked qualifications or analytical support and that he fabricated evidence.
To evaluate these allegations, we reviewed the pertinent Laboratory reports and the related work papers and data. We also interviewed Williams and Steven Burmeister, who worked on the case as an auxiliary examiner.
We conclude that Whitehurst's allegations in this matter are unfounded.
II. Factual Background
On June 7, 1995, the Laboratory received components of an IED recovered during an FBI search in New York City. David Williams was the principal examiner assigned to the case. On June 14, 1995, Williams completed a Laboratory report describing certain examinations performed on the evidence. Under the heading, Explosive Main Charge, the report stated:
Specimen Q3 is a grey colored powder with particles approximately 3/16 in diameter. A sample of the grey powder was test burned in the Laboratory and reacts with rapid flash. Physical observable characteristics of the grey powder suggests [sic] that it resembles pyrotechnic flash powder. The larger particles within the grey powder mixture appear to be a filler mixture. Additional chemical and physical examinations are continuing to confirm the identity of the grey powder and your office will be advised of these results upon its completion. Pyrotechnic mixtures similar to the submitted specimen have been experienced in this Laboratory as having originated from both commercial and homemade M-80 and M-100 type pyrotechnics.
Steven Burmeister subsequently completed the chemical and physical examinations identified in the June 14, 1995, report. A second report was prepared by Williams, dated July 18, 1995, which contained the results of Burmeister's work. Under the heading Explosive Analysis the report notes:
The results of a physical and instrumental examination of specimen Q3 identified the presence of potassium perchlorate and aluminum. Also present in the mixture were particles of an unidentified organic material. A combination of these materials have been found in some flash powder mixtures.
The second report further described the particular tests Burmeister performed.
During our investigation, we asked Burmeister to review the June 14, 1995, report and the July 18, 1995, report. He stated in his sworn interview that he did not see any problems with anything in the reports and that the July 18, 1995, report accurately incorporated his dictation.
III. Analysis of Whitehurst's Allegations
In his June 27, 1995, letter, Whitehurst complained about various aspects of the passage quoted above from the June 14, 1995, report. Obviously, his June 27, 1995, letter did not address the conclusions reached by Burmeister that were set forth in the subsequent July 18, 1995, report.
Whitehurst first noted that in the June 14, 1995, report, Williams stated that a sample of the grey powder had been test burned and reacted with a flash. Whitehurst speculated that if the grey powder was not homogenous, Williams may have destroyed evidence from the test burn before it could be examined by Burmeister. We think this complaint is unwarranted. Burmeister's notes indicate that he himself performed a burn test on a sample of the powder, which also produced a flash.
The initial report also stated that the physical observable characteristics of the grey powder suggests [sic] that it resembles pyrotechnic flash powder. Whitehurst complains that Williams was not qualified to make this statement. Insofar as Williams simply described the observable characteristics of the powder, we think his training and experience in the EU qualified him to express the stated opinion.
Williams also stated that larger particles within the grey powder mixture appeared to be a filler mixture. Whitehurst complains that Williams could not make this statement without having analyzed the particles. In the very next sentence of the original report, however, Williams stated that additional chemical and physical examinations were continuing to confirm the identity of the grey powder. We do not think Williams lacked the qualifications necessary to state that certain particles appeared to be a filler mixture. In light of the following sentence, he also did not incorrectly suggest that this observation reflected some chemical examination.
Williams also observed in the first report that pyrotechnic mixtures similar to the submitted specimen have been experienced in the Laboratory as having originated from commercial and homemade M-80 and M-100 type pyrotechnics. Whitehurst asserts that this was fabricated evidence because no analysis had yet been conducted and Williams had absolutely no idea what the mixture contained. Whitehurst's criticism here ignores the fact that Williams notes earlier in the dictation that chemical and physical examinations are continuing to confirm the identity of the grey powder. When read in context, the statement by Williams comparing the specimen to mixtures from M-80 and M-100 type pyrotechnics evidently rested on observation of the physical characteristics of the evidence.
Whitehurst in his June 27, 1995, letter stated that Burmeister expressed concerns to him about the initial report by Williams. As noted above, Burmeister told us that he did not have problems with the June 14, 1995, report or the July 18, 1995, report. During his interview with us, Whitehurst said he did not recall ever reviewing the second report and said that he would defer to Burmeister if he thought the two reports did not present any problems.
We conclude that David Williams was qualified to give the opinions in the June 14, 1995, report, that the opinions did not lack proper analytical support, and that the report did not constitute fabricated evidence.