Government defends recording Armstrong County man's jail conversation
The government on Monday denied using an inmate to target Muslim inmates and record them speaking with their attorneys.
“There were no recordings made (or any other gathering or reporting) of any attorney-client conversations ever,” said U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Tamara Collier.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen, one of the attorneys prosecuting Emerson Begolly, 24, of Redbank, Armstrong County, said in a court document filed on Friday in Pittsburgh that the informant began working as a porter in the visiting area of Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown, where attorneys meet with inmates, but only after he recorded Begolly threatening to kill a witness.
Begolly pleaded guilty Aug. 9, 2011, to soliciting terrorist acts on a pro-jihad website and to carrying a firearm during a scuffle with federal agents who arrested him in January 2011.
He was scheduled to be sentenced May 29. Assistant Federal Public Defender Marketa Sims filed a motion May 9 asking for a delay in the hearing, in part so that she could investigate whether the government used the inmate to record privileged conversations.
U.S. District Judge Maurice Cohill on Monday granted Sims' motion and rescheduled Begolly's sentencing hearing for July 10.
Bruce Antkowiak, a former federal prosecutor who is a St. Vincent College law professor, said it is unlikely that another inmate would be in a position to overhear or record a conversation between an attorney and inmate.
“That's a big deal — if you actually were listening in through any devices to attorney-client conversations,” Antkowiak said.
Kitchen said in court documents the government does not object to delaying the hearing but denies any wrongdoing. The informant reached out to prosecutors because he was seeking a deal with the government and offered up several pieces of information that included Begolly's threats, he said.
Before that Oct. 12 meeting, “neither undersigned counsel nor any member of the prosecution team involved in this case against the defendant Emerson Begolly was aware of the existence of the confidential informant, nor what information he/she might provide,” Kitchen said.
The government does not plan to charge Begolly with making the threat, but it may offer it at his sentencing as evidence that he shows no remorse for what he did, Kitchen said.
Jails record most inmates' phone calls but aren't supposed to record calls to lawyers. Even when police have a court-sanctioned wiretap, “they have to take steps to make sure those conversations are not recorded,” Antkowiak said.
David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor, said jail conversations generally have fewer privacy protections than other conversations, but agreed it takes evidence of a crime to intrude on an inmate's conversation with a lawyer.
“Failing something like that, you can't just let someone in there who's recording attorney-client conversations,” he said.
Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Black leaders back developer’s offer, say it could save August Wilson Center
- I-79 resurfacing to start in Robinson, Wexford areas
- 1 intruder killed, other shot and wounded in Carrick home invasion
- Pittsburgh public safety official passed over for Boston fire job
- False arrest lawsuit against Pittsburgh police settled for $115,000
- Moon Area board reconfigures elementary buildings, votes again to close school and explore merging with Cornell
- McCandless residents voice opposition to Wal-Mart plan
- TSA fee increase this week arrives with load of complaints
- Save-the-map appeal generates $10K online to revitalize North Side artwork
- Board to examine use of sanitary authority vehicles
- Trying gene therapy to create biological pacemaker