Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Judge blasts FBI for bugging courthouse..

The FBI violated the Fourth Amendment by recording more than 200 hours of conversation at the entrance to a county courthouse in the Bay Area, a federal judge has ruled.

Federal agents planted the concealed microphones around the San Mateo County Courthouse in 2009 and 2010 as part of an investigation into alleged bid-rigging at public auctions for foreclosed homes. In November, lawyers representing five defendants filed a motion arguing that the tactic was unconstitutional, since the Fourth Amendment bans unreasonable searches.

"The government utterly failed to justify a warrantless electronic surveillance that recorded private conversations spoken in hushed tones by judges, attorneys, and court staff entering and exiting a courthouse," US District Judge Charles Breyer wrote in an order (PDF) published yesterday. "Even putting aside the sensitive nature of the location here, Defendants have established that they believed their conversations were private and they took reasonable steps to thwart eavesdroppers."

Breyer concluded that the disputed evidence must be suppressed. At a hearing next week, he'll consider whether the recordings tainted the rest of the prosecution's case.

Read more here.

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