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Anatomy of a debacle

"Anatomy of a debacle" Continued...

Issue: "Court in the balance," April 1, 2000

Mr. Alberty says it was his impression that Ms. Clayton called him to "coach" his upcoming testimony, "so she could make sure I said the same thing in the hearing as I had said in my deposition. Also to scare and intimidate me. It worked. By the time my plane touched down in Baltimore, I was scared to death."

Although he didn't know it, Mr. Alberty had good reason to be scared. According to Michael Schwartz, AGF had provided documents to pro-abortion Democrats on the subcommittee to help them destroy Mr. Alberty's credibility. Further, once minority members of the committee had obtained Mr. Bardsley's materials, Mr. Schwartz says they withheld them from GOP subcommittee members until just hours before the hearing. As a result, subcommittee Democrats were able to dismantle Mr. Alberty's story in a public vivisection that Lou Sheldon and Jim Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition called "a disaster."

It was Mr. Alberty's deposition in particular that helped Democrats shred his viability as a witness. He gave the deposition to Ms. Clayton just prior to his settlement with AGF. In it, Mr. Alberty said under oath that he had "no personal knowledge" of whether AGF ever sold fetal tissue in violation of the law. Mr. Alberty also admitted that he had embellished stories of abortion clinic goings-on that he had told to Life Dynamics in a videotape made by the group in May 1998.

"Personal knowledge" is a precise legal term that means a person was not an actual eyewitness or party to a specific event. But it does not mean that Mr. Alberty, who says he dissected dead children according to AGF's client-researcher requirements and had seen AGF's baby-parts price list, could not have made a reasonable assumption that his employers were operating illegally.

In addition, Mr. Alberty's attorney David Stout, Mr. Schwartz, and others believe that though Mr. Alberty may have embellished accounts he shared with Life Dynamics, the broad core of his story is true-including the story Mr. Alberty told legislators drove him to come forward about the body-parts trade in the first place: that of infant twins, aborted alive and brought to him in a pan for dissection. At the hearing and on the Life Dynamics videotape, Mr. Alberty said the twins, who were between 26 and 30 weeks old, were "cuddling each other" and "gasping for breath."

The incident was a crucial part of what Mr. Alberty felt was a battle for his soul. Vowing to leave the abortion business and make peace with God, Mr. Alberty walked out of the lab and out of the clinic. Even while confused, frightened, and under fire from his subcommittee inquisitors, Mr. Alberty-under oath-did not recant that story.

House members bent on discrediting Mr. Alberty brushed past the issue of the twins and focused instead on his "no personal knowledge" statements, as well as discrepancies between his deposition and the Life Dynamics videotape. California Reps. Henry Waxman, Anna Eshoo, and Lois Capps peppered Mr. Alberty with accusatory questions that Mr. Schwartz says "blew his credibility to shreds within minutes."

Another trap: Ms. Eshoo raised a sheet of paper in the air and waved it like a flag. It was a photocopy of a check made out to Mr. Alberty by Life Dynamics. In all, the group paid Mr. Alberty more than $10,000, plus $11,276 in reimbursements for expenses, over the two-year period he gathered information for them. Although Mr. Alberty does not feel that his accepting money in return for investigative work bears on his credibility, that revelation effectively nailed shut the coffin on his testimony.

Since the hearing, some have questioned the competence of the GOP staff charged with preparing for the hearing. Life Dynamics president Mark Crutcher said, "We repeatedly warned them that ... if they tried to make their case on what Alberty might do or say, rather than on the documentation, the hearing could blow up in their faces."

Mr. Alberty told WORLD that both his reputation and his life now lie in tatters. A week after the hearing debacle, he was fired from his job at a Missouri adult organ donation service. He now works as a part-time landscaper.

"I really came close to wanting to end my life after the hearing," says Mr. Alberty. "I wanted to try to do the right thing, but you know, the Devil won that day."

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