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Legal challenges to wiretaps in white collar cases

The federal government has recorded thousands of taped phone conversations that they have been using in their case against white collar defendants. However, a federal judge criticized white collar investigators for their often-sloppy wiretap management in the case against Craig Drimal, proving that this type of evidence can pose challenges in the courtroom.

Evidence from wiretaps was used to file charges against Drimal and 13 other Wall Street business professionals. According to prosecutors, the recorded conversations among the former traders led them to believe that they were guilty of insider training. Prosecutors believe that Drimal and his associates generated approximately $20 million in illegal profits.

The use of wiretaps has been contested by the defendants because it appears investigators may have been abusing the wiretaps. The judge involved in the Drimal case made statements that suggest he will not suppress the wiretap evidence. However, he did have some harsh words for the investigators and prosecutors involved in the case.

Drimal's attorney asked the courts to consider suppressing the evidence found through the wiretap because the government has violated Drimal's privacy by listening to personal phone conversations he had with his wife.

According to court transcripts, the judge said that there was no question in his mind that quite a few of the calls were inappropriately monitored. The judge referred to way these calls were monitored as "disgraceful" and said that they were an embarrassment to the federal investigators.

The attorney suggested suppressing one month's worth of calls. However, the judge cautioned that he might not grant the suppression, instead allowing all wiretap evidence to be used against Drimal.

This story illustrates the important role a criminal defense attorney has in challenging evidence. Even if the judge in the Drimal case does not suppress the wiretap evidence against the defendant, such a failure to suppress evidence is often the foundation of a strong appeal and an appeals court could easily rules that the wiretap evidence should have been suppressed.

Source: Reuters, "White-collar wiretaps can lead to legal challenges," Andrew Longstreth, 3/17/2011

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