Indicted Portage mayor wants to remove federal prosecutors handling his corruption case
March 01, 2018
Indicted Portage Mayor James Snyder is asking a federal judge to remove the prosecutors handling his corruption case.
Snyder, through his attorney Jackie Bennett, filed a motion asking a judge to disqualify two federal prosecutors from handling his case saying the two reviewed privileged attorney-client material seized from an email account, an alleged infringement on the mayor's Sixth Amendment rights. Bennett has asked a judge to set an emergency hearing on the matter.
"… For more than two years its entire trial team has had access to and made impermissible use of a number of privileged and confidential attorney-client communications that were seized from Snyder's email accounts before the indictment of this case," Bennett wrote in the motion.
Snyder and John Cortina, of Kustom Auto Body in Portage, were charged in November 2016 with allegedly violating a federal bribery statue. Federal prosecutors said the mayor allegedly solicited money from Cortina and "Individual A" and gave them a towing contract for Portage.
Snyder received an additional bribery indictment for alleged accepting $13,000 in connection with a Board of Works Contract, and allegedly obstructing internal revenue laws.
Snyder and Cortina both pleaded not guilty to the charges last year, according to court documents.
The trial for Snyder and Cortina is tentatively set to start in June, according to court documents.
The allegations against the prosecutors say email communications between Snyder, defense attorney Thomas Dogan, and Thomas Kirsch II, who was then the mayor's defense attorney before being appointed as U.S. attorney, were seized in 2015, according to court documents.
Kirsch has recused himself from Snyder's case, according to court documents, and U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana would oversee and manage local prosecutors handling the case.
During the discovery process for Snyder's trial, Bennett said it was found that documents reviewed by the prosecutors contained confidential attorney-client material, according to court documents. Bennett said federal investigators used a "taint team" to review the email communication seized, according to court documents, but that review failed to shield all privileged communications from the trial team.
"Quite clearly, the taint review process employed by the government in this case failed," Bennett wrote. "Any competent review of the documents seized pursuant to the September 2015 search warrants would have identified and embargoed from the trial team all communications between Snyder and his lawyers."
Bennett said in conversations with the prosecutors, no remedy to the review of the privileged material has been proposed.
"Where the taint team procedures fail, and therefore the prosecution grants itself access to attorney-client privileged communications, the prejudice experienced by the defendant is extreme," Bennett wrote.
Bennett said Snyder and his attorneys had cooperated with government investigators, according to court documents, and other methods to obtain the communications could have been used besides the 2015 search warrant.
"If the government had requested Snyder's emails through less intrusive investigative methods rather than via a search warrant, he and his lawyers still would have produced such documents – but only after first conducting a privilege review," Bennett wrote.