Rigging the Riggers: Judge Rules FBI Mics on Court Steps Not Illegal


FBI Mics on Court Steps Not Illegal, Judge Rules

A federal judge has ruled the practice of placing recording devices at the courthouse steps in two California counties is “unsettling” but does not run afoul of constitutional guarantees against warrantless searches.

In a 17-page ruling issued July 22, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton acknowledged the practice of placing recording devices on the courthouse steps in Oakland and Martinez to capture the conversations of four defendants in a federal criminal fraud case was “unsettling,” but said the four did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they engaged in discussions about the alleged fraud next to the FBI’s microphones.

“While the court agrees with defendants that it is at the very least unsettling that the government would plant listening devices on the courthouse steps given the personal nature of many of the conversations in which people exiting the courthouse might be engaged, it is equally unrealistic for anyone to believe that open public behavior including conversations can be private given that there are video cameras on many street corners, storefronts and front porches, and in the hand of nearly every person who owns a smartphone,” Hamilton wrote in her ruling.

The ruling is part of an ongoing case involving the four men, who stand accused of rigging bids to obtain hundreds of properties throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

According to a federal indictment filed by the Justice Department in 2014, Michael Marr, Gregory Casorso, Javier Sanchez and Victor Marr conspired to restrain competition by agreeing not to compete with one another during auctions for foreclosed properties and then splitting the proceeds or taking place in private secondary auctions known as “rounds.”

As part of the case, the FBI placed recording devices in a light fixture along the steps of Alameda County Courthouse and just outside the Contra Costa County Courthouse, among other locations in proximity to both courthouses. The government then used the conversations they gathered from the devices during the grand jury proceedings.

The defense argued that the recordings were gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment provision that guards against illegal search and seizure, and asked for the recordings and other evidence tainted by the recordings to be suppressed.

In her ruling, Hamilton agreed with prosecutors who argued that the men “did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their public oral communications outside the county courthouses.”

The defendants forfeited their reasonable expectation of privacy when they bragged about their scheme to the local press and talked about it in loud voices in public places, Hamilton wrote.

The defense argued that the four men often huddled and talked in hushed tones, which showed they made significant efforts to keep their communications private — a necessary stipulation when asserting a reasonable expectation of privacy.

But Hamilton noted the recording devices did not use amplification technology and instead, recorded all the sounds in proximity and the four men could often be heard discussing their scheme in normal voices. At one point they even shouted over a jackhammer, Hamilton wrote.

“The sound quality of the audio recordings reflect that the recording devices only picked up voices in conversational or loud tones, and not hushed or whispered voices,” Hamilton wrote.

Privacy advocates are concerned the ruling could establish a precedent allowing law enforcement to eavesdrop on attorneys and clients discussing aspects of their cases outside the courtroom.

Hamilton seems to anticipate this in her ruling.

“It is unlikely, and certainly unreasonable, for attorneys to risk breaching their confidential communications with clients by discussing sensitive matters out in the open, in conversational tones, in front of a public forum such as a courthouse, where they could easily be overheard by other attorneys, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, security personnel, court staff, judges, and other bystanders,” she writes. “As an aside, it has been the court’s observation that conversations near the courthouse entrance are frequently overheard by unintended and unseen listeners, even from inside the courthouse.”

Meanwhile, the trial against the four individuals will proceed. According to the government, the four defendants made use of the voluminous numbers of foreclosures from 2008 to 2011, in the thick of the national housing crisis.

In California, foreclosed houses are often auctioned off on the courthouse steps. For this reason, government lawyers argued there was a need to place recording devices in proximity to the auctions to gather details on the alleged fraud.

Martha Boersch, who represents the defendants, declined to comment.





5 Responses to “Rigging the Riggers: Judge Rules FBI Mics on Court Steps Not Illegal”
  1. lvent says:

    They set up my neighbor DAVE BAITMAN who used to be the head DA in the MARKHAM COURTHO– USE & ruined his reputation, his good name & stole everything from him unlawfully by doing so.

  2. lvent says:

    These days in the U.S. thanks to the nixing of POSSE COMITATUS & the NDAA there can be no large busts of criminal cartels or that’s government overreaching.

    However, if they think you know something they’ll drag you from your house & bring you out to the woods,to be hunted down by them like something rabid

    Not before they subject you to their other horrors of course like unfair surprise in what you thought was your haven.

    They could even send in their hospice impersonators to knock you off & blame you for it.

  3. lvent says:

    With the VATICAN BANK SCANDAL where the culprit got hung from FRIARS BRIDGE with coins & rocks in his pockets to send the message he betrayed the P2 LODGE there’s plenty more worse traitors than him to the VATICAN.

    I’m sure CARLOS MARCINKUS would not deny that.

  4. lvent says:

    They don’t have to hire high priced hookers when they can buy our youth because they can’t make enough money to pay their bills in this manufactured poor economic climate.

    $500 bucks can buy the bid riggers what they want for less than one visit to the massage parlor.

    Moreover, they throw drugs into the bargsin because the youth of today have no consciences because they’ve seen the worst in video games, tv & movies.

    Take the movie SCARFACE for example. It’s not hard to download that flick for the computer generation & get hooked up with reality.

    Though the f word is now being criminalized by criminals if your PACINO it doesn’t matter.

    It doesn’t matter if the n word gets used by investors in their own fraud but if someone else says it it’s like you robbed the VATICAN ARCHIVES .

  5. lvent says:

    They’re russian mob perps posing like law enforcement, judges, corps & others have been unlawfully gangstalking me for forcing me to defend 2 FC’s myself, PRO SE for the past 5 years.

    They have been using CRIMINAL TRESSPASS under FALSE DURESS to false imprison me to their fraud which is CRIMINAL ENTRAPMENT by their theft of my identity.

    I don’t think it’s the duty of the investors in their own fraud to falsify evidence by unlawfully spying on what they’ve intentionally blighted which is SECURITIES FRAUD.

    They want to criminally investigate themselves by engaging in wrongful misconduct upon the legal rights of others which is FALSIFICATION OF EVIDENCE.

    To the end of controversies they contrive is DESTRUCTION OF EVIDENCE they’re identity thieves.

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