Officials ask FEDS for help

Prince William County is asking the federal government to help pay for the cost of prosecuting sniper suspects John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo.

In a Nov. 18 letter to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-at large, asked for federal financial assistance.

“As you are aware, the costs incurred to prosecute these types of cases, including additional crowd control related to media coverage, victim support, jury and witness housing and investigative costs can be very substantial,” Connaughton wrote.

He asked to meet with Department of Justice officials to discuss possible federal funds for the county court system.

“This is an effort to start up the dialogue,” Connaughton said Thursday. “Up front, we want to come up with a process for how we document what the additional costs are so we can present a bill after the trial.”

Gov. Mark R. Warner said Wednesday in Bowling Green that he is working with Virginia’s congressional delegation to secure federal funds to cover the cost of the sniper investigation and resulting court proceedings.

“I think it’s appropriate the federal government step up,” the governor said after a Virginia Army National Guard homecoming ceremony near Fort A.P. Hill.

Warner pegged Virginia’s cost of the manhunt at about $3 million. He said it’s too early to estimate the cost of prosecutions in Fairfax and Prince William counties.

Muhammad, 41, faces a capital murder trial in Prince William in connection with the Oct. 9 killing of Dean Harold Meyers at a gas station on Sudley Road near Manassas.

Malvo, 17 faces a capital murder trial in Prince William in connection with the Oct. 14 shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside a Home Depot in Seven Corners.

The two suspects had been held in federal custody before U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered them turned over to Virginia for trial.

Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Katherine Hanley said Wednesday she expects Fairfax officials also will request federal help.

Hanley added she did not recall the county receiving much federal assistance for security upgrades related to the 1993 trial of Mir Aimal Kasi, who was executed last week for killing two CIA employees outside the agency’s headquarters in McLean.

In his letter to Ashcroft, Connaughton noted that the sniper shootings in which Muhammad and Malvo are either charged or suspected occurred in several states and the District of Columbia.

“The prosecution … is, therefore, of national concern,” he wrote.

Warner said he would prefer the federal government provide funding at the time of the prosecutions, rather than waiting until the trials are finished.

The governor also said that even with federal help, “we’ll not be fully made whole.”

The Warner administration is assessing the economic impact of the October shootings, especially along the Interstate 95 corridor from Richmond to Washington, when people put off shopping trips and chores. Sales tax figures for last month were down, the governor said.

Prince William County Executive Craig Gerhart said he is assessing the costs to the county for police overtime, but wants to make sure Prince William and others jurisdictions such as Fairfax are making the same assumptions about what constituted their overtime before releasing the numbers.

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