Items in dead man's home, office subject of court motion in Davidian case

The Waco Tribune Herald, May 2, 2000
By Mark England

Special Counsel John Danforth asked a Waco judge on Tuesday to order the preservation of Mount Carmel-related evidence that might be in the home or office of an infrared expert found dead last week.

Autopsy results are still pending in the death of Carlos Ghigliotti, whose decomposed body was found Friday in his Laurel, Md., office, outside Washington, D.C.

Danforth, appointed by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate the FBI's actions during the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidians, asked U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. to preserve "all documents, videotapes, audiotapes, notes, diagrams, digital recordings, etc." of Ghigliotti's that relate to Mount Carmel.

Smith was also asked by Danforth to impound computer hardware and software belonging to Ghigliotti that deals with the analysis or enhancement of the Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) videotape taken by the FBI at Mount Carmel on April 19, 1993. That was the day the government's siege of the Davidians ended in a fire that led to the deaths of David Koresh and 75 followers.

Danforth's motion concurs with one filed by Houston attorney Mike Caddell, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by surviving Davidians against the government. Caddell had planned to retain Ghigliotti to testify on his analysis of the FBI's infrared video.

Ghigliotti told the The Washington Post last year that he believed gunshots are visible on the FLIR.

His death has led to a buzz on the Internet that it might be related to Ghigliotti's work for the House Committee on Government Reform. A committee source told the Tribune-Herald that Ghigliotti was released after speaking to the media.

However, Arizona attorney David Hardy, who successfully sued the federal government to obtain materials related to what happened at Mount Carmel, said Ghigliotti reported in March that he was going to quit because he was being pressured to work more quickly.

Hardy said he understood Ghigliotti was preparing a final report to turn over to the House committee.

Hardy called Ghigliotti's death "suspicious." "The guy was 42 years old," Hardy said. "He was in good health. Heart attacks or strokes are not unknown at that age, but they're pretty uncommon. I'm extremely suspicious. But I don't have evidence one way or the other."

Laurel Police Department spokesman Jim Collins said Tuesday that police are still awaiting Ghigliotti's autopsy and toxicology results.

"At this time, there is no evidence to indicate foul play," Collins said. Hardy said Ghigliotti called him last year seeking access to evidence he had collected. The two met when Hardy twice visited Ghigliotti's office to view his analysis of the FBI's FLIR tape.

"Laurel is within the outer suburbs of Washington, D.C.," Hardy said, "but it's pretty much a small town. I don't know if I'd care to be walking around the streets there at midnight, but it wasn't the inner-city."

Hardy said that Ghigliotti showed him, to his satisfaction, examples of where people are visible in the FBI's FLIR tape.

A British company, Vector Data Research, recently reported to Judge Smith that its preliminary analysis of the same tape showed no evidence of shooters or gunfire.

"In one instance, near the gym wreckage, there was no doubt it was a human being," Hardy said. "He moved from one pile of wreckage to another. You could make out his gait."

Hardy said Ghigliotti had a copy of the original analog FLIR tape taken at Mount Carmel. According to Hardy, many investigators received copies of a digitized master copy made by the FBI. The digital copy compressed the images and threw out some details, Ghigliotti told him, Hardy said.

Ghigliotti's death will hurt the case of those who believe gunshots were fired at the Davidians, Hardy said.

"My gut reaction is that with him alive, it was all over," Hardy said. "The FBI fired gunshots. He could prove it. Without him, it becomes debatable."

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