Federal judge calls out prosecutors in prison recording case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — During a federal court hearing that mainly focused on recordings of attorney-client conversations by a Kansas prison, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson accused a federal prosecutor Wednesday of improperly trying to access her office last month while she was away.

The judge also said she had questions about other actions by the government in the case.

Federal defense attorneys have argued their clients’ Sixth Amendment rights have been violated at the Corrections Corporation of America prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, which has been taking silent recordings of meetings and phone calls between inmates and their lawyers.

Prosecutors have countered that they weren’t aware that attorney-client meetings were being recorded until a grand jury subpoenaed all of the video recordings at the private prison as part of a massive contraband investigation earlier this year.

At the hearing Wednesday, Robinson questioned prosecutors about when they learned of the recordings and what they did after making that discovery. The judge said she still had many unanswered questions about the government’s explanation for the recordings and how they have been used.

Near the end of the all-afternoon hearing, Robinson said Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin Tomasic had tried to get into her chambers on Aug. 25 after the courthouse had closed.

Robinson’s law clerk was in Robinson’s office when she heard voices and discovered Tomasic and a U.S. marshal outside the doors preparing to come in, the judge said.

The judge stopped short of drawing conclusions about why an assistant prosecutor would want to come into her office — where video evidence from CCA has been impounded — but noted that if the federal public defender’s office had attempted such a thing the U.S. attorney’s office would surely have pressed for an investigation.

Robinson said she would appoint an expert to investigate the scope of constitutional violations that had taken place in the case, including actions by the prison and the government.

The view of the U.S. attorney’s office is that Tomasic was trying to deliver materials the judge had requested and was simply trying to leave them on Robinson’s desk instead of putting them under the door, Jim Cross, a spokesman for the office said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Barnett told Robinson that Tomasic would not be taken off the case.

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