Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization


June 16, 1999

Honorable Joanna Seybert 
Uniondale Federal District Court 
2 Uniondale Avenue 
Uniondale, NY 11553

Your Honor:

I am writing in regard to the sentencing of James and Elizabeth Sanders, scheduled for July 9, 1999 at Uniondale Federal Courthouse in Long Island, NY.  I am not an attorney, nor have I discussed this with an attorney.  Any errors or inappropriateness is attributable to me.

I have one point to offer for your consideration before giving your sentences.  I would respectfully point that my common sense compels me to argue the Sanders were victims of selective prosecution.  I ask that you review the following exchange between you and Mr. Pitofsky:

United States of America vs. James Sanders and Elizabeth Sanders on April 8, 1999 (page 732, line 19 to page 733, line 16: (the jury has left the courtroom.)

THE COURT: “Mr. Stacey was a 33 year veteran at TWA who was authorized to be there. He was well respected.”

MR. PITOFSKY: “Correct.”

THE COURT: “Is there anything to indicate that he wasn't authorized, that you think common sense would dictate, to indicate that this person at that level wasn't authorized to take some residue or cooperate?”

MR. PITOFSKY: “Your Honor, it is like arguing that Agent Kinsley is a police officer. He is there at the crime scene. Is there anything to indicate that Agent Kinsley at the scene of a murder can't carry away evidence from the crime scene? He is authorized to be there. He is not authorized to remove stuff from there. That's common sense.”

THE COURT: “He may be authorized in certain instances.”

MR. PITOFSKY: “We can argue as to whether those instances were here or not. But a crime scene is inviolate, your Honor, it doesn't matter what level of authority you have to be there. You don't have a level of authority to personal taking things from the crime scene.”

THE COURT: “All right.”

I expect that any defendant brought before your Honor will be vigorously prosecuted and I, reluctantly, applaud Mr. Pitofsky in this exchange.  However, Mr. Pitofsky, in this exchange, has explained to the Court that common sense dictates that the laws applicable are applicable to all.  I agree that a law, applied to one person, should be applied, equally, to all.   The following testimony bothers me in that it appears the law will apply at the discretion of the government to Mr. Sanders and, at the discretion of the government, the law, may or may not apply to Ms. Sanders.

United States of America vs. James Sanders and Elizabeth Sanders on April 12, 1999 (page 704, line 11 to page 705, line 8: (Schlanger-direct/Maffeo)

Q “What did the government then proceed to say?”

A “Essentially there was some back and forth. At least talk from the government about why Mr. Sanders should cooperate. And ultimately it ended up with the statement that if he didn't cooperate, they would not subpoena him before the grand jury, but would rather seek an indictment against him. And the next time that we saw them would be he on the wrong side of an indictment.”

 Q “Did the government indicate in that meeting what, if any, actions they were prepared to take with respect to Liz Sanders?”

 A “At the very end of that meeting there was a change in the status of Mrs. Sanders from being just a subject in the investigation, to a possible target in the investigation. And that was communicated directly to myself and Mr. Sanders.”

 Q “And when you say was communicated directly to you, what was your understanding that if she did not cooperate?”

 A “That the government would at least attempt to seek an indictment against her as well.”

 Q “Now –“

 A It wasn't if she didn't cooperate. It was if Mr. Sanders did not cooperate.”

I will not comment further on this exchange because I have no understanding of a non-prosecution agreement.  However, to my point, if the government was to charge anyone, common sense says the government would have to charge all.  A lot of time elapsed from the time “things” were removed from the hanger until the government selected James and Elizabeth Sanders to windup “on the wrong side of an indictment”.  During the elapsed time unauthorized* FBI removal of evidence caused such concern that the NTSB filed a formal complaint, no such complaint was filed in connection to the removal of seat fabric by Terrel Stacey.


Austin L. Stephens

Member, Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization

* May 10, 1999 Senate hearing, Administrative Oversight of the Investigation of TWA Flight #800, NTSB senior accident investigator Hank Hughes submitted written and oral testimony reporting that  "Parts were taken from the interior hangar by the FBI without on-scene FBI or NTSB staff being consulted or advised as to what was taken. After [the] NTSB complaint was lodged, FBI security caught two FBI agents in interior of hangar in the early morning hours."