... could not explain why it was found on his
(I think we can perhaps help there).|
Thursday, October 21, 2004
he's subject of FBI probe Camden Co.'s Friedner
denies making threat
By ALAN GUENTHER
CHERRY HILL -- RUMORS of an FBI
investigation swirled around Lewis "Robbie"
Friedner for weeks after he abruptly left his
$66,000 job as head of Camden County's division of
consumer services for the disabled.
On Wednesday, during an exclusive interview with
the Courier-Post, he confirmed that he has
been questioned about terroristic threats by the
FBI but firmly denied any wrongdoing.
SO Lewis "Robbie" Friedner, who
reported a bogus anthrax-laced letter a
couple of years ago, is at it again. This
time, he happened across a "terroristic
letter" while splashing about in the
bathroom aboard an Amtrak train.
The text of this
selfsame letter was found on his office
computer. S stage conjuring trick? No,
Friedner suspects some sort of conspiracy
motivated by revenge.
Michael Pinsky, insists: "I'm not
sure there was an offense committed. Maybe
there was, maybe there wasn't. I hope the
government realizes who Robbie Friedner
Freeholder-Director Jeffrey Nash did not return
a call. County spokesman Ken Shuttleworth
called Friedner a "great advocate for the quality
of life of the disabled."
Here's how the trouble started, said Friedner:
While traveling on an Amtrak train to the West
Coast in mid-August, he found a threatening letter
on the sink of a restroom. The letter said the
train would "never reach its destination" in Los
But instead of being lauded as a hero for
turning the letter over to authorities, he was
treated as a suspect, Friedner said. Federal agents
boarded the train near Fort Worth, Texas, and
searched him, he said. Agents also searched his
home in Cherry Hill.
And near the end of
August, Friedner said, the FBI discovered the
letter had been generated on his computer in his
county office at 600 Market St. in Camden. He
said he did not write the letter and could not
explain why it was found on his computer.
No charges have been filed, said Friedner's
attorney, Michael Pinsky.
Friedner said he felt relieved to be able to
tell his story because the FBI investigation has
caused so many "crazy rumors."
"I believe they found the letter on my computer
at work, or something led them to believe that I
was involved in this case, which is ludicrous,"
said Friedner, 48, who has cerebral palsy. "I have
theories. As a rule, I don't lock my door to my
Though he helps hundreds of disabled people
every year, some are angry when they are denied
services and could want some kind of revenge
against him, Friedner said.
He has been on the county payroll since April
Shortly before Friedner took a paid leave of
absence from work at the end of August, an FBI
agent told him he was a publicity-seeker, Friedner
"You think I'm lacking attention? Look behind
you," Friedner said he told the agent. The wall in
his office was covered with newspaper clippings
from Friedner's 19-year career of helping disabled
"I told him, `You think I need attention? It's
like the pope looking for religion,' " Friedner
Several years ago, while there was an anthrax
scare at the Bellmawr Post Office, Friedner said he
reported receiving an envelope with powder in it.
No anthrax was discovered.
"I was taken to the hospital. I was given
medications and shots," he said. Far from getting
publicity, the anthrax scare "inconvenienced me
Friedner's attorney, Pinsky, said he has been
trying to work quietly to resolve the matter.
"I'm not sure there was an offense committed.
Maybe there was, maybe there wasn't," Pinsky said.
"I hope the government realizes who Robbie Friedner
is. I'm certain he never, at any time, had any
criminal intent about anything."
Greg Reinert, spokesman for the U.S.
Attorney's office in Camden, declined comment.
Shuttleworth said Friedner has applied for a
disability pension and planned to retire. He said
Friedner's departure was not announced because
"he's off sick and there's nothing for us to say."
Shuttleworth said he knew nothing of an FBI
investigation - even though the FBI gained access
to the county office and searched Friedner's
Religious leaders and advocates for the disabled
said Wednesday that Friedner would be missed.
"Robbie is a beloved friend, a dedicated family
man," said Rabbi Ephraim Epstein of the
Cherry Hill-based Congregation Sons of Israel. "He
is very reliable and responsible. I feel saddened
that he and his family are suffering."
Friedner has helped people with disabilities
since the late 1970s, said Brian Fitzgerald,
president and chief executive officer of Easter
Seals of New Jersey in East Brunswick.
"The Robbie I know - this sort of thing does not
fit his character, his personality," Fitzgerald
In the last few weeks, Friedner's office has
been moved to Collingswood and merged with the
county's division of senior services, Shuttleworth
said. No announcement was made of the merger. The
move was contemplated before Friedner left on sick
leave, Shuttleworth said.
Friedner said he discovered the terroristic
letter while traveling with his preteen son.
Especially with his son aboard the train, and
given his long years of service helping hundreds of
disabled, Friedner said it makes no sense that he
would do something "so stupid" as to generate a
"What would be the purpose of throwing away all
my years of credibility?" he asked. "I may not be
an Ivy League scholar, but that stupid - I ain't."
Staff writer Bernie Mixon
contributed to this report. Reach Alan Guenther
at (856) 317-7871 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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