Federal prosecutors are fighting a request by convicted lobbyist Kevin Ring to unseal plea negotiation documents in his case.
Ring's lawyers at Miller & Chevalier in December asked a federal trial judge in Washington to unseal portions of a PowerPoint presentation prosecutors showed him before he was indicted in 2008 on corruption charges.
The defense lawyers contend the documents would bring "greater transparency to, and public scrutiny of, the daily workings of the criminal charging, plea and sentencing process." Ring's attorneys said in their petition that the information would shed light on the so-called "trial penalty"—the harm that flows from insisting on one's right to stand trial.
Ring didn't take a plea offer. He went to trial—and lost. U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle sentenced Ring, caught up in the Jack Abramoff scandal, to 20 months in prison. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in January 2013 upheld the conviction. The Supreme Court turned down Ring's request to hear the case.
The government's PowerPoint presentation, prosecutors said in papers submitted Monday, was never filed with the trial judge. The government contends the document—Ring wants to reveal six pages of it—is not a part of the judicial record of Ring's case.
"There is neither a First Amendment nor common law right to access the government’s criminal discovery," Peter Koski, a deputy chief in the Criminal Division at Main Justice, wrote today.
Koski, a supervisor in the Public Integrity Section, said a protective order in Ring's case shields the document from public review. The protective order, the government argued, does not expire over time.
Prosecutors contend there's no earlier, historical case that would support any decision by Huvelle to order the government to publicly disclose the PowerPoint presentation.
"Release of the material would undermine the purpose of protective orders, and the selected pages Ring seeks to disclose offer only a partial snapshot of a much larger presentation and an even longer plea negotiation and therefore provide an incomplete and unbalanced view of the issue on which he hopes to 'educate the public,'" Koski wrote.
The material Ring wants disclosed, prosecutors said, "was part of a lengthy and complex conversation." Disclosure of the information, the government argued, "risks chilling candor in future plea negotiations."
The criminal discovery process, Koski wrote in the government's papers, "was not designed to permit defendants to make post-conviction use of protected documents for non-case-related purposes."