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Montgomery County Holds News Conference

Aired November 26, 2002 - 12:16   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Now back to Montgomery County, Maryland, we go to the news conference that's under way -- Chief Charles Moose speaking, talking about reward money in the sniper case.

CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY CO. POLICE: ... indictment of the person or the people involved in these crimes. So, we want to be very careful to do that in a way that that criteria is met, it's met according to what the investigators uncover, it's met according to what the prosecutors agree is the proper information that led to the arrest and indictment of the people involved in this situation.

So, we have that work to do, and I would again remind you that we also are very cognizant of not creating a situation where we have a potential witness testifying at a trial, and then being exposed to the fact that they're testifying because they are a paid witness. Because once you give someone reward money, they do move into the category of potentially being a paid witness.

So, there are a lot of potential missteps in the distribution of reward funds. We will work with people that have experience, and then eventually, we'll also make sure that we have the proper number of attorneys involved in this entire process.

So, I would beg of you to not be surprised, to not be upset if the process takes awhile. If it doesn't happen immediately -- that we don't have anyone just going to come out of the back room, and we're not going to give them the check this morning. That's not going to happen. When we have that decision, we will share that, but we want to be very careful and very appropriate with that.

I will just tell you that the experience has been incredible. The county executive was just telling me that someone pulled up next to him at a stoplight and demanded the reward money, as if he's riding around with it in a suitcase, and you know, that's not the process.

Last night, when I picked up my mail at Montgomery College, where I do a little part-time teaching, there's a letter in there explaining to me that someone's sister from London called the tip line and gave some real relevant information that should be considered in terms of the reward. And I should go and check that tip and connect all of the dots, because if we would have been thinking and deciphered exactly what they said, then that would have led to the arrest and indictment of the people.

So, letters and ideas are still coming in. We will process all of that. We're not making fun of any of that, but it does say that there are a number of things that we have to look at, things that have to be considered, and eventually that will all be done.

But whereas the payoff to the victims is moving ahead, I'm very pleased with that. I think that the money, any money that other Americans and other people in the world have made available to support the families, support the survivors, we are very correct in getting that money distributed as quickly as possible. But the reward money is in a different category. The emergency, the urgency is not there, but it is a requirement that we do it properly. And we're going to work through that.

But I would also join Greg Wimms (ph) in saying that we always need to remember our prayers and thoughtfulness for the loved ones and the families of the victims and the survivors, and I'm very pleased at the number of people that sent in money in that category, and as a law enforcement officer, extremely pleased that we were able to raise a reward fund that caused people to pay attention to the case, caused people to provide tips, caused people to participate.

That's why we have reward funds, and it's nice to see that those can happen and they don't have to be driven exclusively by government funds, but citizens, common people just saying that it's important enough to give the police any edge that they can have in a case like this, and a reward fund was there, it was available to help us have the edge in bringing this horrible situation to closure.


MOOSE: Well, again, sir, the investigators are still uncovering things that -- leads that maybe came in toward the end of the case. We want to make sure we evaluate all of that. As you know, the case continues to trickle throughout the nation. Wherever there's evidence there that needs to be evaluated and considered, we still have to do that.

But again, the big piece is that we not do anything to jeopardize what the prosecutors are doing, and the prosecutors will ultimately have a lot to say with regards to what evidence in their mind led to the indictment. Because we have the arrests, but the indictment piece is really more in the legal realm of what evidence that they were going to determine is critical to the indictment, where that evidence came from.

Again, we just wouldn't make that haphazardly. That has to do with the actual criminal case and the prosecution of that case. So, to make any decision now would clearly be premature.

SAVIDGE: You are listening now to Chief Charles Moose, as he talks about what is a serious debate, the issue of about $500,000 worth of reward money and how it should be distributed to those people that helped lead to the eventual capture of the snipers.

Patty Davis has been following this story quite closely.

Patty, I can understand this problem of giving money to people who may become potential witnesses.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's certainly a big dilemma for police in Montgomery County and other officials, you know, just who should get that money. As you heard Chief Moose saying, in fact that they want to be very careful that it does not appear that they're giving money in exchange for anybody's testimony. Some of these people may indeed become witnesses in the trials of John Mohammed and John Lee Malvo.

That $500,000 now sits in a bank account waiting for the decision. The money is supposed to go to the tipster, and there were some 60,000 of them, whose information led to the arrest and indictment, as you heard Chief Moose say, of these suspects.

Mohammed and Malvo have been behind bars now more than a month, and they've both been arrested and indicted.

Now, who are some of the prime contenders for the payout? Well, Ron Lantz (ph), a Kentucky truck driver who spotted Mohammed and Malvo's blue Chevy Caprice at a Maryland rest stop. He called 911, but so did Whitney Donahue (ph). He spotted the car at the rest stop, the same rest stop, the same day just before Lantz (ph) did, and he called 911. Larry Blank (ph), who works at the Maryland rest area, he also spotted that car and, in fact, got into Whitney Donahue's (ph) white van with him and waited for police to come.

There is also a former neighbor of Mohammed and Malvo's in Tacoma, Washington. His name: Robert Holmes (ph). Now, he told police that the two men used a tree stump for target practice, and you'll recall seeing the pictures of that tree stump being hauled away as evidence.

There is also a priest in Ashland, Virginia, William Sullivan (ph). He told police that two agitated men called him on October 18, talking about an Alabama killing. Now, he told police about it, and indeed, a fingerprint left by Malvo at the scene of the killing outside of a liquor store in Montgomery, Alabama helped police and the FBI link Malvo to the sniper shootings in the Washington D.C. area.

No deadline yet set for giving that money out. Police say that it's going to be awhile -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: Understandably so. There's a lot of information to go through. Patty Davis, thank you.


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