What’s the latest being thrown around? Two words: Witness, and Tampering. Yeah, file that one under really bad idea.
Witness tampering is the real deal. (18 U.S.C. § 1512. Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/718/usc_sec_18_00001512—-000-.html.)
Tyler Hamilton’s lawyers on Monday formally notified federal authorities about a weekend incident they consider to be “aggressive contact” initiated by Lance Armstrong, saying it is up to those authorities to decide whether it constitutes witness tampering.
. . .
The two cyclists crossed paths at an Aspen, Colo., restaurant Saturday night, said Hamilton attorney Chris Manderson. He said Hamilton told him Armstrong repeatedly asked how much he had been paid to do the television interview, and added that his legal team would “(expletive) destroy you,” “tear you apart on the witness stand,” and “make your life a living (expletive) hell.”
If this is true, man, Armstrong just stuffed it up hard.
It’s got to be tempting to put your hand on a guy who just testified against you. It’s got to be tempting to laugh him down from the comfort of your bar stool. It’s got to be tempting to have him thrown out of the restaurant when you’re personal friends with the owner.
But, just because something is tempting doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to actually do it.
Remember Filippo Simeoni? (Stage 18, 2004 Tour de France: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/07/24/1090464904320.html.) I’m sure that seemed like a great idea at the time too. This time, maybe not so much.
California-based former federal prosecutor Richard J. Cutler has no first-hand knowledge of the incident but said that the episode, if accurately recounted by Hamilton, could fall within the definition of witness tampering.
Although no criminal charges have been filed against Armstrong, Cutler said the ongoing investigation could be enough to underlie a charge of witness tampering. Hamilton could be called back before the grand jury to provide more information, and/or summoned to testify at trial if a case were to go that far.
“If I were the prosecutor, my investigator would be going to talk to Hamilton,” said Cutler, now with the firm of Dechert LLP. “This, to me, is a game-changer.”
A charge of witness tampering could also affect any statute of limitations issues prosecutors might be facing by extending the timeline forward to the present day, Cutler added.
If what I’m reading about the statute of limitations is correct, and I have every reason to believe that it is, this could completely change the manner, and amount, of charges Armstrong could be facing. This relevant paragraph is from a May 25th Sports Illustrated article on Floyd Landis.
Under federal law, the statute of limitations for charges related to the illegal possession and distribution of steroids, human growth hormone and related performance-enhancers is five years. Federal charges for conspiracy and racketeering also carry a five-year statute of limitations. Given that Landis rode with Armstrong between 2002 and 2004, charges for whatever wrongdoing Armstrong may have committed could therefore be barred by time. That said, the statute of limitations for a charge can be tolled (extended) under certain conditions.
Like my man Joe Biden likes to say, this is a big fucking deal. If Armstrong just opened the door to criminal liability on charges that were previously going to be barred by the statute of limitations, he will have just handed the prosecution an early Christmas present wrapped in a big red bow. And, even if the statute of limitations tolling issue somehow does not come into play, the charge of witness tampering remains.
In fact, this may have been Armstrong biggest mistake of all. Even if prosecutors find themselves unable to indict him on a drug charge, they could still nail Armstrong for obstruction of justice.
Just like they did with Barry Bonds[.]