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Back to 2000 Headlines

8/8/2000

Ramsey housekeeper ch

by B.J.Plasket
Daily Times-Call

DENVER John and Patsy Ramseys ' former housekeeper is about to challenge a Colorado law that keeps grand jury witnesses quiet for life.

Linda Hoffman-Pugh, who worked for the Ramseys when their 6-year-old daughter JonBenet was slain in 1996, plans to write a book and fears she will be prosecuted under Colorado's "blanket" grand jury secrecy law.

New York attorney Darnay Hoffman, who represents Hoffman-Pugh and who released a copy of the suit over the weekend, said he expects the suit to be filed on Wednesday.

If so, it will be the second legal action brought by Hoffman against District Attorney Alex Hunter. In 1997 Hoffman best known for his defense of New York subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz unsuccessfully sued Hunter to compel him to charge Patsy Ramsey in her daughter's killing.

A Boulder judge threw out that suit.

Hoffman on Monday said he is confident the suit will be successful in overturning a secrecy law he believes is too broad to be constitutional.

"I don't see any way we can lose since we aren't filing it in Boulder," he said.

The law prohibits grand jury witnesses from discussing their testimony unless there is an indictment or report issued at the end of a grand jury term.

In the context of a case that few expect to ever be filed, that could mean a lifetime of silence.

"This law forces grand jury witnesses to remain silent in perpetuity," Hoffman said. "The federal courts will not accept that."

Hoffman said Hunter, for political reasons, "chose to bury (the case) in the grand jury law." He said the DA's office has used the secrecy law to "take the Constitution and twist it like a pretzel."

The suit says Hoffman plans to write about her years working for the Ramseys as well as her appearance before the grand jury.

The suit claims Hunter in 1999 gave Hoffman-Pugh the choice of appearing before the grand jury voluntarily or being forced by subpoena.

The suit also cites a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court case in which a similar law in Florida was thrown out because it violated the First Amendment rights of witnesses who were forced to remain silent after the jury disbanded.

"That case is right on point in this situation," Hoffman said.

Hunter, who referred to Hoffman as little more than a publicity seeker when he filed the suit to force the prosecution of Patsy Ramsey , did not return a call seeking comment.

The grand jury investigating JonBenet's death met for 18 months but did not return indictments.

Hunter has refused to say if the grand jury was allowed to vote, but earlier this year told the Times-Call that he "called the grand jury to get medical records" from the Ramseys , although those records were turned over before the jury ever met.

In addition to asking the U.S. District Court to throw out the law and prohibit Hunter from prosecuting Hoffman-Pugh, the suit also seeks legal fees.