17 May 2017

Not the Usual Suspects

Ellen Friedell remembers interviewing the Watergate burglars

On Saturday, 17 June 1972, I was 23 years old and had completed my second year of law school. I worked at the District of Columbia Bail Agency in downtown Washington. The bail agency hired law students to interview criminal defendants in the lock-up and prepare reports for the court. The judge would decide whether the defendant could be counted on to turn up for trial, or would have to remain in jail. We did our best to present the facts that would show that defendants could be released. I drove to the bail agency from my parents’ house in Maryland. I liked working the Saturday shift because there was less traffic and parking was easier. I usually listened to the radio in my car, but I don’t remember learning about the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters on the way to work. Maybe that day I listened to music. When I got to the bail agency I was assigned a share of the files for the morning lock-up. Among the defendants I interviewed that day were the most unusual burglars I had ever seen.