More on how federal grand juries operate and target letters

I’ve spent my afternoon talking with attorneys who have either had clients appear before federal grand juries as witnesses or have worked as federal prosecutors at one time during their careers.

A federal grand jury generally serve for 18 months. The U.S. Attorney’s office presents them evidence once a month. Some cases can take months to completely present to the grand jury. The fact the city is appearing before a grand jury in Tallahassee isn’t necessarily significant.

According to my sources, cases are heavily vetted before they are even presented to a federal grand jury. They felt that calling witness to testify was an indication that the investigation may be further along than most might think.

I was also told that U.S. Attorney’s office typically sends “target letters” to those individuals that are the focus of a federal grand jury. From the the Criminal Resource Manual:

When a target is not called to testify pursuant to USAM 9-11.150, and does not request to testify on his or her own motion (see USAM 9-11.152), the prosecutor, in appropriate cases, is encouraged to notify such person a reasonable time before seeking an indictment in order to afford him or her an opportunity to testify before the grand jury, subject to the conditions set forth in USAM 9-11.152. Notification would not be appropriate in routine clear cases or when such action might jeopardize the investigation or prosecution because of the likelihood of flight, destruction or fabrication of evidence, endangerment of other witnesses, undue delay or otherwise would be inconsistent with the ends of justice.

Inweekly has made a public record request to see if Mayor Ashton Hayward has received a target letter. We have asked for a copy.

Here is the sample of a target letter in the USDOJ Criminal Resource Manual:

This letter is supplied to a witness scheduled to appear before the federal Grand Jury in order to provide helpful background information about the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury consists of from sixteen to twenty-three persons from the District of ___. It is their responsibility to inquire into federal crimes which may have been committed in this District.

As a Grand Jury witness you will be asked to testify and answer questions, and to produce records and documents. Only the members of the Grand Jury, attorneys for the United States and a stenographer are permitted in the Grand Jury room while you testify.

We advise you that the Grand Jury is conducting an investigation of possible violations of federal criminal laws involving, but not necessarily limited to *. You are advised that the destruction or alteration of any document required to be produced before the grand jury constitutes serious violation of federal law, including but not limited to Obstruction of Justice.

You are advised that you are a target of the Grand Jury’s investigation. You may refuse to answer any question if a truthful answer to the question would tend to incriminate you. Anything that you do or say may be used against you in a subsequent legal proceeding. If you have retained counsel, who represents you personally, the Grand Jury will permit you a reasonable opportunity to step outside the Grand Jury room and confer with counsel if you desire.


Few of the attorneys that I interviewed believed that we will hear of any indictments this week.

BTW: U.S. District Attorneys are also encouraged to notify people when they are no longer targets:

The United States Attorney has the discretion to notify an individual, who has been the target of a grand jury investigation, that the individual is no longer considered to be a target by the United States Attorney’s Office. Such a notification should be provided only by the United States Attorney having cognizance over the grand jury investigation.

Discontinuation of target status may be appropriate when:

The target previously has been notified by the government that he or she was a target of the investigation; and,

The criminal investigation involving the target has been discontinued without an indictment being returned charging the target, or the government receives evidence in a continuing investigation that conclusively establishes that target status has ended as to this individual.

There may be other circumstances in which the United States Attorney may exercise discretion to provide such notification such as when government action has resulted in public knowledge of the investigation.

The United States Attorney may decline to issue such notification if the notification would adversely affect the integrity of the investigation or the grand jury process, or for other appropriate reasons. No explanation need be provided for declining such a request.

If the United States Attorney concludes that the notification is appropriate, the language of the notification may be tailored to the particular case. In a particular case, for example, the language of the notification may be drafted to preclude the target from using the notification as a “clean bill of health” or testimonial.

The delivering of such a notification to a target or the attorney for the target shall not preclude the United States Attorney’s Office or the grand jury having cognizance over the investigation (or any other grand jury) from reinstituting such an investigation without notification to the target, or the attorney for the target, if, in the opinion of that or any other grand jury, or any United States Attorney’s Office, circumstances warrant such a reinstitution.