WASHINGTON — A former administrative assistant to Rep. Joe Kolter (D-Pa.) was indicted Tuesday on charges of obstructing justice and tampering with a witness in the criminal investigation of the House post office.
In a 14-count indictment, a federal grand jury also charged Gerald W. Weaver II with narcotics offenses and insurance fraud.
Last July, a grand jury subpoenaed Kolter, along with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) and Rep. Austin J. Murphy (D-Pa.), but the congressmen declined to testify, citing the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and denouncing the inquiry as a "political witch hunt."
A source familiar with the investigation said the Weaver indictment does not suggest wrongdoing on the part of Kolter, a five-term congressman who lost his bid for reelection in the Democratic primary. The exact dates of Weaver's employment by Kolter could not be determined.
Telephone calls to Kolter's offices here and in Pennsylvania went unanswered Tuesday.
Jay B. Stephens, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said the Weaver indictment "demonstrates that we will hold accountable those who seek to impede the ongoing criminal investigation into the operation of the House post office."
So far, the investigation has led to the conviction of six former employees of the House post office on drug and embezzlement charges. But no House members have been accused.
The grand jury charged that Weaver tried to obstruct its investigation in two ways. He allegedly asked a former business associate to write a letter to him stating--falsely--that Weaver had purchased $2,900 in postage for their company and that the associate reimbursed him over a three-year period.
Weaver actually cashed checks at the post office in roughly that amount to buy cocaine, the indictment said. He then testified on Nov. 17 that the letter was true and accurate.
Weaver also "demanded" that his former associate alter records subpoenaed by the grand jury to support his postage-reimbursal alibi, the grand jury said.
The indictment also accused Weaver of tampering with a witness to thwart the investigation. The witness, Wendell Magruder, a former House post office clerk, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to cover up the embezzlement of cash and stamps from the facility. A cocaine charge was dropped when Magruder agreed to cooperate with investigators.
Weaver suggested to Magruder that he could have a job at Weaver's lobbying firm if he refused to tell investigators about checks Weaver cashed to pay Magruder for cocaine, according to the indictment. Weaver also allegedly promised to loan money to Magruder for expenses and legal fees and to help him find a lawyer if Magruder did not disclose to investigators that Weaver was cashing checks at the House post office to pay for cocaine.
The grand jury also charged Weaver with distribution of cocaine, conspiracy to possess the drug and nine counts of possession of the drug.
He also was charged with conspiring with Magruder to commit wire fraud by paying Magruder to have a third party dispose of a 1987 Toyota owned by Weaver's wife so he could report the car stolen and collect insurance proceeds.
That scheme was thwarted when police recovered the car on Nov. 14, 1991, the day after Weaver reported to his insurance company that it had been stolen.
If convicted on all counts, Weaver would face a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
In refusing to appear before the grand jury, Kolter, Rostenkowski and Murphy--whose records were subpoenaed separately by the panel--cited a House task force investigation of the post office operation, which cleared them of misconduct.
The task force agreed that the post office was rife with favoritism, plagued by incompetent workers and careless about handling cash under its prior management.