A corporate executive in the arms and equipment industry who is charged in a foreign bribery prosecution in Washington was ordered this month to turn over his work computer, mobile phone and other electronic items to a grand jury.
Lawyers for the executive, who is not identified in the Sept. 20 opinion that was published today, unsuccessfully sought to block the enforcement of the subpoena, which was issued in June. The opinion involves an ongoing grand jury investigation and was released in a redacted form. In January, the executive was one of 20 others arrested at a firearms show in Las Vegas.
The executive’s attorneys, who were not named, argued the demand for the electronic devices violated rights against self-incrimination and against unreasonable search and seizure. The litigation in the subpoena dispute, pending before Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, has taken place under seal. Lamberth, who presides over the grand jury, is not handling the criminal prosecution of the executive.
Lamberth said in the 23-page ruling that the grand jury subpoena only demands the production of electronic devices and not the documents. The judge dismissed the executive’s claims that the subpoena violates Fifth Amendment rights. “The subpoena makes no mention of the data drives on those devices or the documents saved on those drives,” Lamberth wrote.
Prosecutors, according to the opinion, acknowledge that documents are the end-goal of the grand jury subpoena. It was not immediately known how many documents are at issue. The government has proposed the use of a so-called "taint team" to conduct a privilege review. The executive urged the court to appoint a special master to review the electronic devices for privileged documents.
“The Court believes that the Government’s wealth of resources and experience as well as its established procedure for handling these types of review render the taint team the most efficient option,” Lamberth said in the ruling.
Lawyers for the executive also alleged grand jury abuse in that the subpoena for the laptop, phone and other items was issued nearly four months after his arrest in January. The FBI, Lamberth said, did not have probable cause to seize the items on the night of the arrest, and the man’s company and the government discovered in April that the executive still had the devices.