FBI, Prosecutors Given Copies Of Defense Documents By Duplication Service Defense Was Instructed To Use
from the pixels-are-cheap dept
So much for attorney-client privilege. According to a report by Dan Christensen of Florida Bulldog, the feds' insistence that defendants utilize its contracted document duplication system has led to FBI access of privileged work product.
Court papers filed last week by attorneys for Dr. Salo Schapiro contend the secret practice was not the action of “just one rogue agent or prosecutor.” Rather, it was apparently an “office-wide policy” of both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI that’s gone on for “at least 10 years.”
The unwritten policy involves “surreptitiously copying defense counsel’s work product through the government-contracted copy service that the government requires defense counsel to use to obtain the discovery documents’’ needed to properly prepare for trial, according to court papers that seek either the dismissal of Schapiro’s indictment or the disqualification of the entire prosecution team.
Specifically, the court papers allege that Fort Lauderdale-based copying service Imaging Universe and president Ignacio E. Montero provided the government with CDs containing duplicates of documents Schapiro’s defense team culled from 220 boxes of evidentiary records in preparation for trial.
The government has responded with a filing [PDF] claiming it has done nothing wrong. It acknowledges the FBI and the US Attorney's office received copies of the files from the duplication service, but claims it never asked the company to perform this "service." That's at odds with other information gleaned by the defense, as well as an admission by a federal prosecutor.
The motion contends that company president Montero “lied” to Arteaga-Gomez about the copying process, and instead of making sure the government did not see the defense’s hand-selected files, provided FBI case agent Deanne Lindsey with duplicate copies.
Hayes, the federal prosecutor on Schapiro’s case, first informed Srebnick and his associate that agent Lindsey “had been surreptitiously receiving the CDs” on April 22, according to the defense motion.
“Hayes proposed to immediately destroy the CDs,” but the lawyers asked instead that he give them to the defense, “which he did,” the motion says.
The defense also claims to have a document in hand written by the owner of the duplication company stating that he has turned over duplicates of defense documents to the government multiple times over the past decade.
The government's response to the defense's motion makes a couple of points -- one more credible than the other.
The first is the government's assertion that all work product is not created equal, in terms of privilege.
The sole issue before the Court is whether the file name titles created by the defense late in the discovery process, or the patient files that SA Lindsey viewed, can be considered protected opinion work product, and if so, whether there is any legal basis to sanction the United States based upon her exposure to them.
Simply, there has been no showing that the documents at issue were protected work product, and there is no basis for the sweeping remedies Defendant seeks. Work product protection does not apply to every selection, opinion or mental process of an attorney. While Defendant’s argument conflates fact work product, which enjoys no protection or privilege, and opinion work product, which may be protected, he bears the burden of showing that work product protection covers each document at issue—and he has failed to do so.
This is an interesting assertion considering the government -- in response to FOIA requests -- tends to treat all work product as privileged and thus out of the reach of requesters. Here, it claims there are varying levels of privilege and tosses the burden of proof over to the defense to show why these documents should not have been seen by prosecutors.
The second assertion the government makes, however, undercuts the severity of the defense's claims -- if only in this particular case. All documents duplicated by the third-party service for the defense (and shared with the government) were already in the FBI's possession. They were taken from 220 boxes of medical/patient files seized by the FBI during its investigation. While viewing the illicit duplicates may have given the government some insight into the defense's preparations, it did not give prosecutors access to documents they otherwise wouldn't have had access to.
The government has also instructed the duplication service to stop providing "courtesy copies" (as the owner of the service refers to them) of defense documents to prosecutors.
Whether or not there was any impropriety, there's certainly the appearance of impropriety. The prosecutor's office, along with the FBI, apparently accepted the unauthorized duplicates without complaint, only seeing fit to provide clear instructions to the duplication service after its improper access was exposed.