At times, Van Gelder appeared absent-minded or disorganized. A former federal prosecutor, the criminal defense lawyer repeatedly asked to introduce evidence on behalf of "the government." "The government?" Judge Wainstein asked her. "I'm sorry, defense," she replied. "Old habits," Wainstein joked -- the first time. By the third time, he quit joking about it. She also made smaller errors that did not seem to be by design, like referring to her client by the wrong name, or mistaking the name of Abramoff's country club.
More than once, Van Gelder asked a line of questions that arrived at a place which appeared different from what she expected, although she may be laying the groundwork for conflicting testimony from future witnesses. For instance, she asked Volz about two statements that his former boss, Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), inserted in the Congressional Record in 2000. Introducing the first statement as evidence, she asked Volz if he wrote any part of the statement.
"I don't remember writing any part of it," he replied. "I remember getting it from [Abramoff associate] Mike Scanlon."
She took a stab with the second statement. Like the first, Volz said he got the text from Scanlon. Van Gelder asked if he remembered writing any portion of it. Volz said he read the statement to Ney, who made changes to it. She asked if Volz was the one who submitted the statement for publication. "I don't remember walking down to put anything in the Congressional Record," he replied. (Van Gelder is trying to bring at least two other Ney aides in to testify; Perhaps she will elicit more facts about this from their testimony.)
There were also -- surprise, surprise -- more details on golf. Volz owns a set of Calloway clubs, we learned. Both he and Bob Ney have handicaps over 25, which made them ineligible to play "the old course" at Scotland's St. Andrews, where they went with Abramoff in 2002. (An Abramoff aide arranged for them to play the course anyway.)
Ney is not an avid golfer, Volz told Van Gelder, although he does play. He conceded that it was fair to characterize Ney as "not a good" golfer. Volz did not know if Ney owned his own clubs. As for himself, Volz said he plays "a little bit" of golf. "Do you enjoy the game?" Van Gelder asked. "Yes," Volz replied after consideration.
As today's Daily Muck shows, the press showed up for the day. A dozen or so print reporters were joined by two sketch artists and a handful of TV journalists. Safavian's wife, sister and mother were still there, and the gallery had some new faces -- including many summer interns from the Justice Department who had been dispatched to watch the trial and learn what they could.
After three hours of defense questioning one observer described as "interesting, but not exciting," I was hoping for a big finish from Van Gelder. I was disappointed. After a final break and some smaller questions, Van Gelder rounded her home stretch -- revisiting the topic of his cooperation agreement with the government.
Because of the possibility of receiving a reduced sentence, giving "substantial assistance" is in your best interests, isn't it, she asked Volz. He agreed. "Like talking to the FBI was in your best interest?" she asked. "Yeah," Volz said.
"Have you ever thought about other people's best interests?" Van Gelder asked. "Yes," replied Volz.
"Mr. Safavian's?" ("Yes.") "Mr. Ney's?" ("Yes.") Van Gelder ran through a list of the individuals Volz could damage with his testimony; Volz replied "yes" to all.
"Do you realize that your testimony will be used against all of these men?" she asked him. Volz appeared to consider the question.
"Conceivably," he replied. "There's no doubt I was looking out for my interests."