In a bold move that probably surprises no one, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas filed a notice on August 20, 2020, that it is refusing to abide by a court order to turn over evidence after it was caught secretly recording meetings between defendants and their lawyers at the federal detention center in Leavenworth, Kansas.
On July 27, 2020, Chief Judge Julie Robinson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas ordered the government to open its files to hundreds of prisoners who were recorded during meetings with their lawyers at the CCA facility in Leavenworth. They are challenging their convictions obtained by the government after those meetings. See In re CCA Recordings, 2:19-CV-02491 (D. Kan. July 27, 2020).
The government’s filing, titles “United States’ Notice of Intent Not to Provide Further Discovery,” says that it “cannot and will not comply with the court’s July 27, 2020 discovery order.” It acknowledged that by refusing to comply it would be held in contempt and receive other sanctions, but it was willing to take that chance.
The government said that is has already been “punished” enough by having to fire the prosecutors who used the secret recording. It also said that it has already put enough time and money into the investigation, and estimates it would cost another $3.5 million to comply with the court’s order.
While it refused to provide any evidence that the secret recordings were not used to obtain the convictions being challenged, the government urged the court to deny all of the prisoners’ claims, calling them “unfounded.” The gov further said that since the prisoners had plead guilty, then they’re obviously guilty. But the government ignores that it coerced those guilty pleas by overcharging the defendants and then offering to drop gun charges that would have required the court to impose mandatory sentences of several decades, in exchange for their guilty pleas.
The government’s gall to thumb its nose at a federal judge is unsurprising under the current leaders of the Executive Office overseeing the Department of Justice. The government even had the audacity to say the court’s order went against “fundamental principles of justice and fairness.” Apparently, spying on and recording defendants during meetings with their lawyers is “just and fair.”
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