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Journalist arrested in connection with Flight 800 investigation

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Journalist arrested in connection with Flight 800 investigation 12/15/97 NEW YORK--In early December James Sanders, a freelance journalist who wrote…

Journalist arrested in connection with Flight 800 investigation

12/15/97

NEW YORK–In early December James Sanders, a freelance journalist who wrote a book on the TWA Flight 800 crash, was arrested in connection with allegations that he aided and abetted a TWA pilot who stands accused of stealing evidence from the site of the crash investigation.

Sanders has been under FBI investigation since last May, when he revealed that he had come into possession of some fabric from one of the TWA jet’s seat cushions. According to claims he made that were reported in The Riverside (Cal.) Press-Enterprise and later in his own book, The Downing of TWA Flight 800 — The Shocking Truth Behind the Worst Airplane Disaster in U.S. History, Sanders had the fabric sample tested by an independent lab. He claims the results revealed that the sample contained explosives residue from a missile.

Federal authorities charged Sanders and his wife, Elizabeth, who works for TWA, with felonious aiding and abetting a theft allegedly committed by TWA pilot Terrell Stacey, who participated in the official investigation of the crash. Authorities claim that the pilot, encouraged by Elizabeth Sanders, removed the seat fabric from the hangar where the wreckage was being assembled and turned it over to James Sanders.

Stacey has been charged with misdemeanor theft. His lawyer, John McDonald, told the Press-Enterprise that his client is cooperating with authorities.

Sanders has said that he did not ask anyone, including Stacey, for the samples. Jeffrey Schlanger, Sanders’ attorney, said he views the charges as a First Amendment issue.

“Sanders is a journalist,” he said, “and his job is to report what he learned.”

After a federal district court in Brooklyn issued a warrant for his arrest, Sanders surrendered to authorities and was released on his own recognizance. Sanders, his wife and Stacey had not been indicted as of December 10. (U.S. v. Sanders; Media Counsel: Jeffrey Schlanger, New York)