ТОП 10:

How Witness Protection Works

Philip Tolomeo was a loan collector for a dangerous organized crime gang known as the Calabrese crew in Chicago from 1978 to 1988. When Tolomeo fell out of favor with Frank Calabrese, he fled Chicago, but not before embezzling money from the crew. He also took comprehensive records detailing the gang's illegal loan-collection activities. Tolomeo would later enter the Witness Security Program and provide the records to the FBI. His testimony led to the conviction of two members of the Calabrese crew.

The Federal Witness Security Program is intended for crucial witnesses, like Tolomeo, whose prospective testimony puts them in immediate danger. Since its inception in 1970, more than 7,500 witnesses and more than 9,500 witness family members have entered the program and have been protected, relocated and given new identities by the U.S. Marshals Service.

Who's Eligible?

U.S. Marshals Service seal

Witness protection is provided only for witnesses whose testimony is determined to be essential to the successful prosecution of a criminal case and in which the witness's life or the life of his family is at risk. The witness's testimony also must be considered credible and certain in coming, meaning that the witness isn't going to back out of giving that testimony in court.

Three organizations manage the Witness Security Program:

· United States Marshals Service - provides security, health, safety of non-incarcerated program participants

· U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Enforcement Operations (OEO) - authorizes the admission into the program of witnesses whose lives are in danger as a result of their testimony against drug traffickers, terrorists, organized crime members or other major criminals

· Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) - maintains custody of incarcerated witnesses

The U.S. Attorney General's office, which has final word on all witness protection cases, has defined specific cases in which witnesses may be granted entry into the Witness Security program, including:

· Any offense defined in Title 18, United States Code, Section 1961(1), which covers organized crime and racketeering

· Any drug trafficking offense described in Title 21, United States Code

· Any other serious, Federal felony for which a witness may provide testimony that may subject the witness to retaliation by violence or threats of violence

· Any State offense that is similar in nature to those set forth above

· Certain civil and administrative proceedings in which testimony given by a witness may place the safety of that witness in jeopardy

Prisoner Witnesses Some witnesses who are already in state or federal prison may also eligible for the Witness Security Program if they meet the criteria of the program. In addition to the other conditions of the program, prisoner witnesses are required to take a polygraph test. Entry into the program can be denied depending on the results of the polygraph test. Incarcerated witnesses are managed by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons and often will be transferred to a new prison once in the program to serve the remainder of their sentence. Once out, their case will be re-evaluated to determine if they need to be relocated to a safe city.

Weighing the Risks


The process for enrolling a witness into the program begins when a state or federal law enforcement agency submits a request for protection. A Witness Security Program application is then submitted to the OEO; this application summaries the testimony to be provided, the threat to the witness and any risk the witness may pose to a new community if relocated.

The OEO then arranges for a preliminary interview with the Marshals Service so the witness can find out what to expect from his or her new life in the program. The Marshals Service coordinates the interview directly with the prosecutor or requesting law enforcement agency, which must provide a copy of the application and threat assessment to the Marshals Service. Following the preliminary interview, the Marshals Service makes its recommendation as to whether the prospective witness should be placed in the Witness Security Program. Its recommendation goes to the OEO.

The final authority to enroll a witness into the program belongs to the U.S. Attorney General. The authority of the Attorney General was established as part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 and extended by The Witness Security Reform Act of 1984. Considering recommendations of the Marshals Service and the prosecuting attorneys, the Attorney General (or a person delegated by the Attorney General) creates a written assessment of the risk the witness and his family members might pose to their new community, as many of these witnesses are often criminals themselves. The Attorney General evaluates the following factors regarding each adult considered for protection:

· Criminal records

· Alternatives to witness protection

· Testimony from other potential witnesses

If the value of the witness's testimony outweighs the danger to the new community, the Attorney General can place the witness in the Witness Security Program. The OEO then advises the requesting agency's headquarters of the Attorney General's decision, and the witness and family members must sign a Memorandum of Understanding, verifying they understand the rules of the program.

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