A D.C. Superior Court judge this week rejected defense efforts to inspect the home and work computers of a magistrate judge who is the alleged victim of stalking.
Washington solo practitioner Dorsey Jones Jr. wanted a forensic expert to examine the computers as well as the cell phone belonging to D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Janet Albert. Jones said he wanted to establish the chain of custody for e-mails and text messages sent by and to defendant Taylar Nuevelle. Nuevelle is Albert’s former girlfriend.
Judge Russell Canan denied Jones’ request this week. The judge also denied a motion to appoint a federal district judge to preside over the case. Jones had asked that all Superior Court judges recuse themselves since the victim is a colleague.
Nuevelle, 40, was charged in April with stalking Albert and breaking into her Northwest Washington home. Nuevelle and Albert’s year-long relationship had ended in September 2008.
Jones said in court papers filed this month that he wants to establish the chain of custody for hard copies of e-mails and text messages that the government has provided him as evidence. Jones said that he wants to verify whether any of the original messages were deleted or altered.
In court papers released Dec. 23, prosecutors called Jones’ request an invasion of privacy. The defense failed to articulate a basis for believing “that there have been any alterations or deletions of evidence, nor any reason to believe there is material evidence stored on these devices, which would justify the extraordinary intrusion into the victim’s personal and workplace communications,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Brenowitz said in court papers. Click here for a copy.
Moreover, Brenowitz said, Nuevelle’s lawyer should already have access to all text messages and e-mails to and from his client. The prosecutor called Jones’ concerns about alterations and deletions “undocumented speculation.”
As a side note, Brenowitz said Albert’s personal computer had been rendered “inoperable due to numerous instances of spyware, viruses and other foreign programs.” The computer has been reformatted and the amount of information available to be examined is limited, Brenowitz said.
Albert and her lawyer, Robert Spagnoletti of Washington’s Schertler & Onorato, joined the government’s motion to quash defense efforts to access the computers and cell phone.
Federal prosecutors were also opposed to Jones’ motion that all Superior Court judges recuse from hearing the case.
Canan said in court earlier this month that he has no social or personal relationship with Albert, a magistrate judge since 2003 who presides over child abuse and neglect cases. Albert, a former federal prosecutor, has never had a trial in front of Canan. Brenowitz said in court papers there is no evidence that Canan can’t be impartial.
“The fact that a witness is a judge or works in the courthouse does not lead inexorably to the conclusion that there would be an appearance of impropriety if such a case were presided over by any judge of this court,” Brenowitz said in court papers (.pdf).