Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tania Frontera & Christopher Torres: Hearing Re Grand Jury Subpoenas


Report: July 28, 2008 court date on Tania Frontera & Christopher Torres grand jury subpoenas

Motion to Intervene

Judge Carol Amon said she first wanted to address the Motion to Intervene, as she had already determined that this could be discussed publicly. The National Boricua Human Rights Network and the Comite Pro Derechos Humanos de Puerto Rico, represented by National Lawyers Guild lawyers Alan Levine and Jeffrey Rothman, had filed a Motion to Intervene in the Motion to Quash filed by Tania and Christopher's attorneys. The judge denied the motion, concluding that the two organizations had not made out a sufficiently concrete injury directly related to the subpoenas. The judge did say that she would consider the intervention papers as if they were an amicus brief as to the motion to quash. She also said that in the event that the grand jury asks Tania and Christopher questions about political activities or associations, the intervenors could renew their motion.

Motion to Quash

Tania and Christopher's attorneys, National Lawyers Guild lawyers Martin Stolar, Susan Tipograph, and David Brankin,, had filed a Motion to Quash the subpoenas, asking the court to require the government to show that the grand jury was conducting a legitimate criminal inquiry and not a political witchhunt against the Puerto Rican i ndependence movement. The judge denied the motion, ruling they had not shown sufficient infringement on their associational rights for her to order the government to reveal the nature of the grand jury investigation.

Electronic Surveillance

Tania and Christopher's attorneys had also asked the court to require the government to show that the grand jury and its questions were not based on illegal electronic surveillance. The judge said she did not think they had made a colorable claim that would require a more detailed response from the government, but said that the better practice would be for the government to have one of the agents with knowledge of the investigation submit an affidavit addressing this issue, and ordered the government to do so within 10 days.

Secrecy

The government had asked the court to file all documents, except those related to intervention, under seal, and to conduct all hearings in chambers and closed to the public. The judge ruled that, while the papers must remain sealed, the proceedings could take place in open court, since she planned to say nothing that would violate the rule requiring that grand jury matters remain sealed. She also allowed unsealing the sealed papers to the extent that the parties can agree to the redactions.

What Happens Next

There was no date set for the next court appearance.


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