Many police departments around the country use body worn cameras to capture officers’ interactions with citizens and suspects. When properly used, the footage from these encounters has proven helpful to prosecutors and defense attorneys, allowing both sides to examine one aspect of the encounter. When combined with eyewitness reports, police reports, footage from video cameras in the area and traditional evidence, a more complete understanding of the incident should be available. The growing popularity of body worn cameras has revealed, however, that the recordings can present a one-sided view, and are capable of being misused, misinterpreted, and tampered with.
Much has been written and tweeted about this past week concerning this topic. Politics aside for the moment, what does the government need to demonstrate to a court that a place should be searched, or a person’s phone calls should be intercepted?
I’ve posted before about the line of case following United States v. Trujllo-Alvarez, 900 F. Supp. 2d 1167 (D.Or. 2012), which held that ICE could not detain and attempt to remove a non-citizen defendant charged with the federal crime of illegal re-entry, once the defendant has been released under the Bail Reform Act. Trujillo and its progeny affirm that when the Executive Branch decides that it will defer removal and deportation in favor of first proceeding with a federal criminal prosecution, it is obligated to follow all applicable laws governing such prosecution, including, of course, the Bail Reform Act. Once the Secretary of Homeland Security opts for prosecution over deportation, and invokes the jurisdiction of the district court, that court has priority, and administrative deportation proceedings stall until and unless the criminal prosecution concludes or is dismissed. United States v. Blas, Crim. Action No. 13-378, 2013 WL 5317228, at *3 (S.D. Ala. Sept. 20, 2013). In United States v. Galitsa, 17 Cr. 324 (VEC), Judge Caproni followed the Trujillo-Alvarez reasoning, as did Judge Irizzary in United States v. Rosario Ventura, 17-cr-418, in the Eastern District of New York, holding that the Government must either release the defendant under the bond conditions set in the matter and proceed with prosecution, or dismiss the indictment and proceed with removal.
Press reports of late have revealed that former Army Lieutenant-General and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former Trump Foreign Policy Advisor George Papadopoulos pled guilty to making false statements to government agents. Federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1001, prohibits a person “in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch” of the federal government from “knowingly and willfully” (1) falsifying, concealing or covering up “by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;” (2) making any materially “false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation;” or (3) making or using “any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry …”.
Every day we are bombarded with news about the ever-expanding investigation into the President and the alleged Russian connection to his staff. The news media has been filled with headlines and postings about people who are labeled a “person of interest,” a “subject,” a “target” or a “witness”. Do these terms have specific meanings to federal law enforcement? Yes and no. In the federal system, the term “person of interest” is not officially used. It’s use became widespread by some in law enforcement and the media back in 1996 during the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta when it was announced that a security guard was a person of interest in the bombing. It euphemistically means that someone has suspicions about the person but not sufficient evidence. There are, however, very specific Department of Justice definitions for a target, subject or witness of an investigation.