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FBI agent's records unsealed in Wecht case

Jason Cato
| Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The FBI agent leading the public corruption case against Dr. Cyril H. Wecht has been investigated by the bureau for seven infractions that led to a demotion and two suspensions without pay, according to internal disciplinary records made public today.

Special Agent Bradley W. Orsini, 44, was described by former colleagues in the Newark, N.J., office as "abrasive and self-centered," with a former supervisor characterizing him as a "bully."

The Office of Professional Responsibility, the department which investigates allegations of wrongdoing by agents, initiated four investigations into Orsini's behavior between 1997 and 2000. Those investigations, which were consolidated into one case, found Orsini:

• Engaged in a prohibited sexual relationship with another agent for nearly two years, which came to light after Orsini presented his paramour at bureau Christmas parties in 1998 and 1999 with a pet collar inscribed with the note "If found, please return to Brad Orsini" and a toy wheel with a guide for assigning the best cases, which always landed on her picture when spun

• Threatened a subordinate whom he believed told superiors about his relationship with the female agent

• Damaged government property by punching holes in office walls with his fists and breaking chairs

• Made unprofessional and insensitive "homophobic remarks" while joking around with other agents in the office.

For those transgressions, Orsini was demoted from a supervisor's role within the Newark public corruption squad to a street agent working narcotics investigations in an outlying field office. He also was suspended without pay for 30 days, placed on probation for one year and forced to undergo sensitivity training.

That investigation also found Orsini violated bureau procedures by signing other agents' initials to interview reports in 1993 and 1994. Orsini told investigators he did not know how many times he had done so, but said he did it only because "it was a convenience and a shortcut," according to the reports.

In 1998, Orsini was suspended for five days without pay for falsifying chain of custody forms and evidence labels by signing other agents' names to the documents. Investigators found that Orsini committed these infractions between May 1995 and January 1997.

Both times that he was reprimanded, Orsini was warned that future infractions could result in his dismissal.

Orsini transferred to the Pittburgh FBI office in 2005.

The disciplinary reports were unsealed today by U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab. The judge originally ordered that the documents should be made public in June 2006 after the Tribune-Review and other media outlets sued. The government appealed Schwab's decision to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which sided with Schwab.

Wecht's lawyers have said they plan to use the documents to raise questions about Orsini's truthfulness and character during trial. Prosecutors have vowed not to place Orsini on the stand.

U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan and local FBI officials were not immediately available for comment.

Buchanan previously said that releasing the records "would constitute an invasion of Agent Orsini's personal privacy."

She also called Orsini "an extremely experienced investigative agent who has contributed significantly to public corruption cases in New Jersey and the Western District of Pennsylvania."

In court documents, Wecht's lawyers have referred to Orisini as an "agent with a known bad reputation within the FBI, including having urged witnesses to perjure themselves in a case involving his own misconduct." Wecht's lawyers say they have a witness who would testify to this.

In January 2006, Wecht was charged with 82 counts of fraud and theft in which prosecutors say he billed private clients for travel expenses paid for by Allegheny County taxpayers, received private lab space by allowing the use of unclaimed bodies for an autopsy program at a local university and used county employees to do work for his private pathology business while on county time.

Schwab today also said he would allow Wecht's lawyers another chance to have certain evidence in the case tossed out. He also said he no longer plans to hold a contempt hearing against Wecht's lawyers for not following his pretrial schedule.

The case against Wecht has been virtually on hold since September 2006, when the 3rd Circuit issued a stay of his trial while several appeals were considered.

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