Cheney may be ordered to talk in Beaver Creek suit
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” A federal magistrate indicated Tuesday he will order Vice President Dick Cheney to give sworn testimony in a lawsuit by a man who claims he was wrongly arrested after approaching Cheney.
Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer did not issue an order but said Cheney is a key witness whose deposition appears to be crucial to the case.
Shaffer said he will issue a written decision later.
Steven Howards of Denver sued five federal agents for arresting him after he approached the vice president in a crowd at Beaver Creek and criticized the Iraq war.
Howards was later released and a state harassment charge was dropped.
Howards’ attorney, David Lane, said agents have given conflicting accounts of Howards’ interaction with the vice president, with at least one saying Howards shoved Cheney in the back and another saying Howards shook Cheney’s hand and patted his shoulder.
Lane said at least one agent suggested the vice president could have ordered Howards’ arrest after Howards told him, “I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible.”
Lane said agents have accused each other of lying in depositions.
“I don’t know why they are lying, judge,” Lane said to Shaffer, “but someone in this case is lying.”
Shaffer repeatedly cut off an attorney for the vice president’s office who was trying to argue that ordering Cheney to give a deposition would distract to vice president from his duties.
He dismissed “this notion that there is a slippery slope and vice presidents from here to eternity” would be affected.
Shaffer said the case was “singularly unique.” He said Cheney’s deposition would be important because he was a witness, not because of his position as vice president.
“There was a particular individual who just happened to be the vice president,” Shaffer said.
But James Gilligan, the attorney for the office of the vice president, argued that Lane only wanted the publicity of deposing the vice president.
“It’s about the celebrity of the vice president,” he said, “and the excitement of deposing him.”
Shaffer again countered, saying he had the authority to take the excitement out of the process by limiting the scope of the deposition. He said he could allow only written questions with a time limit.
“There wouldn’t be any thrill at all,” Shaffer said.
Lane countered that such an order would keep him from asking question based on the vice president’s answers.
“His lawyers will essentially be answering those questions,” Lane said after hearing. He said Shaffer was effectively “protecting the vice president.”
Lane predicted Shaffer would authorize a deposition from the vice president.
Shaffer denied a defense motion to release videotapes of Secret Service agents giving depositions. Transcripts of the depositions have already been released.
Lane said he would appeal the videotape ruling.
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