The William Jefferson Chronicles

FBI late to link 'Lori M.' with agent in Jefferson case
By Jonathan Tilove
September 28, 2009, 3:14PM

The FBI knew last year that special agent John Guandolo had had "sex while on the job" with a woman named "Lori M." and that Guandolo feared that his actions had jeopardized a case.

Mody Sept. 21.JPGFile photoLori Mody But the bureau did not put it together that the woman was Lori Mody, and that the case in jeopardy was the one against former Rep. William Jefferson, in which Mody was a confidential witness and Guandolo posed as her driver, according to court documents unsealed today.

Judge T.S. Ellis III did not permit the defense to bring up at trial Guandolo’s relationship with Mody, the wealthy Virginia businesswomen who wore a wire during her meetings with Jefferson. The former nine-term Democratic congressman from New Orleans was found guilty on 11 of 16 corruption charges in August and faces sentencing in Ellis’ Alexandria, Va., courtroom Oct. 30.

But court documents unsealed have exposed Guandolo’s behavior, and raised questions about the FBI’s failure to alert the federal court, the U.S. attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, which prosecuted Jefferson, or Timothy Thibault, the lead FBI agent in the Jefferson case, of Guandolo’s misconduct.

As jury selection was about to get under way June 8 in Jefferson's trial, the U.S attorney’s office reported to the court that it had just learned from Mody that she had sexual relations with Guandolo in the spring of 2005, when he was working with her on the Jefferson case.

In that submission, which was unsealed last week, the prosecutors said they had learned that Guandolo had been the subject of an inquiry late last year by the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility after his superiors came into possession of a document in which Guandolo "detailed his affairs with female FBI agents" and "also indicated that Mr. Guandolo had had an intimate relationship with a confidential source that he thought could damage an investigation."

After Jefferson’s conviction, his attorneys field a motion for a new trial, citing the judge’s refusal to let them probe Guandolo’s conduct before the jurors, and Thibault’s apparent failure to know about it or protect against it. In their reply, opposing the motion, filed Aug. 24 and unsealed this week, the U.S. attorney’s office offers a revised version of what the FBI knew about Guandolo’s affairs.

According to the government brief, Guandolo’s list of his affairs - "apparently the product of marriage counseling" – did not, as they previously were led to believe, mention that Guandolo slept with a confidential source. Instead, Guandolo used the list to identify women with whom he had had affairs by their first name and last initial. Among those listed was "Lori M." and the notation, "Sex while on the job. Jeopardized case."

According to the government brief, "apparently believing that 'Lori M.' may have been an FBI employee, the FBI ran a search for any person matching the name 'Lori M.' in the FBI’s Washington Field Office with negative results." The brief notes that Thibault and Guandolo worked in different squads in different buildings.

The FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility apparently never talked directly to Guandolo to ask him who or what case he was referring to, because, according to the U.S. attorney’s Office, Guandolo resigned at the beginning of December before investigators could interview him. The brief by Jefferson’s attorneys noted that Guandolo had asked Mody to conceal their relationship from the FBI.

After Mody came to Thibault to tell him about her relationship June 5, prosecutors decided not to call Mody as a witness, though they were still able to play the tapes she recorded of her conversations with Jefferson. The defense didn’t learn of the nature of Guandolo’s relationship with Mody until a month later, in early July, according to filings.

The FBI has declined comment on the revelations about Guandalo, describing it as a private personnel matter, and on Monday referred to the newly unsealed court documents as the last word on the matter.

In a Sept. 3 filing, unsealed Monday, Jefferson’s attorneys argued that, "despite the government’s denials, there is reason to believe that Agent Thibault knew or should have known" what was going on between Guandolo and Mody when it was happening.

The attorneys contend that, "Thibault’s inability to uncover this serious breach of FBI protocol goes directly to this core competence," particularly because "Thibault was aware that Mody was sensitive and emotionally needy," and that "she was flirtatious and responded in kind to flirtatious comments."

Instead, the defense attorneys said, Thibault himself was occasionally flirtatious with Mody and then assigned Mody and Guandolo hotel rooms with an adjoining door when they were at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in April 2005. The fact that Thibault, "failed to see any signs that Guandolo and Mody were involved in a personal relationship that lasted for at least several months," the defense said, "raises significant questions about whether Thibault failed to properly supervise the investigation, and about the acuteness of his observations and perceptions."

Jefferson’s lawyers also included in the unsealed document a copy of a memo Thibault wrote asking that a female agent who had been working as Mody’s handling agent before being reassigned, be put back on the case because Mody missed her and "she is at times very fragile …"

The memo also notes that investigators especially needed a female handling agent to help Mody shop for appropriate clothes to cover up the audio/visual equipment she had to wear to tape Jefferson.

Thibault noted that he and another male agent agreed that it would make Mody uncomfortable "for us to help/advise her in her clothing selection," and also that "there are sensitive issues when attempting to place body recorders on her."

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