For the first time ever, federal prosecutors have disclosed that they intend to use evidence obtained through a wireless wiretap of a criminal defendant that they intend to use at trial. The disclosure of such evidence allows the attorneys for the defendant to file a motion in court to challenge the introduction of the evidence at trial. This sets up a potential legal challenge to wireless wiretaps that could make it all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. The case involves Jamshid Muhtorov who is charged with providing material support to the Islamic Jihad Union, a terrorist organization based in Uzbekistan. Muhtorov is accused of travelling abroad and joined this organization. How the disclosure came to be public is interesting. In June, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, discovered that defendants in criminal cases had not been informed that communications they had were intercepted by authorities. This was a big problem because last year, in a case before the United States Supreme Court, Verrilli successfully argued that a case filed by a group of Plaintiff’s who were challenging these warrant-less wiretaps should be dismissed because they lacked standing since they were unable to prove that they had been listened to. Apparently Verrilli had been misinformed about what the federal government was doing. When he confronted the people who had misinformed him they thought that it only mattered if actual evidence was derived from the warrant-less wiretaps. This information touched off an intense debate in the Justice Department which led to the decision to disclose any and all wireless wiretaps to criminal defendants.
This case can have wide ranging implications. For one thing the legal arguments and challenges could make their way to the Supreme Court. Second, its possible that if it turns out that such information was not disclosed during the discovery process in previous cases, it could lead to the reopening of past cases.
We will be following this, and other cases, dealing with warrant-less wiretaps as they work their way through the court system.
James Dimeas is an award winning Chicago criminal defense attorney and author with more than 23 years of experience aggressively representing his clients facing criminal charges. If you have a criminal case in Illinois, contact me in Chicago (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.