A lawyer serving 23 years in prison for fraud is suing the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies over the rejection of his requests for documents related to his case.
A federal jury in North Carolina found Gregory Bartko, formerly an Atlanta-based securities lawyer, guilty in November 2010 of conspiracy, mail fraud and selling unregistered securities. In April 2012, he was sentenced to 23 years in prison. According to his complaint, filed in Washington federal district court on July 26, he's serving time at the Yazoo Federal Correctional Institution in Yazoo City, Miss. An appeal of the verdict is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
In the two years since sentencing, Bartko said he made a series of requests under the Freedom of Information Act for documents about his case from the Justice Department, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Bartko claimed that with the exception of 36 redacted pages, the agencies failed to produce any records.
Bartko, who is representing himself in the FOIA lawsuit, wants information related to his claims of prosecutorial misconduct. He accused the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of North Carolina of failing to turn over evidence in his case and, more broadly, of a "pattern of tainted prosecutions." In his suit, he claims the agencies have failed to provide detailed reasons for denying his FOIA requests and failed to show that any privacy or law enforcement concerns outweigh the public interest.
"[T]he public has a cognizable interest in becoming aware of whether and the extent to which the prosecutions arising in the EDNC are fair, constitutional or rife with prosecutorial abuse resulting in the conviction of innocent defendants," he said.
The document requests, according to the complaint, included information about the SEC's investigation, any records of investigations or complaints against the prosecuting attorney, Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Wheeler, and documents held by the Justice Department, FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service about Bartko and other people and companies at issue in his criminal case.
Bartko accused the agencies of not only wrongfully denying his requests and not offering a full explanation for the denials, but also of failing to meet deadlines or, in some instances, not responding at all.
An SEC spokesman declined to comment and a Justice Department spokesperson could not immediately be reached this morning. Bartko is representing himself.
The case is before U.S. District Judge James Boasberg. No hearings have been set.