Prosecutors defend seizures in Giuliani associates' case

Apr 13, 2020

Prosecutors say they properly seized electronic items that a Florida man tried to send to his lawyers after he was charged with conspiring with associates of Rudy Giuliani to make illegal campaign contributions

NEW YORK (AP) — A Florida man cannot hide his electronic devices and their contents from prosecutors after he tried to send them to his lawyers before he was arrested on charges that he conspired with associates of Rudy Giuliani to make illegal campaign contributions, prosecutors told a judge Monday.

The prosecutors in arguments filed in Manhattan federal court defended actions they took to seize materials including a phone, tablet, and an external hard drive in the case against David Correia.

They also revealed that they learned Correia was sending the materials when his lawyers told an FBI employee that he had left his passport at a package delivery office and would be delayed a day before he could fly to New York and surrender.

“Simply put, a non-privileged object or document does not become privileged merely because it is sent to a lawyer to obtain legal advice," prosecutors wrote. “Correia knew he would be arrested upon entering the United States. He ensured that when he was arrested, he did not have a single electronic device or piece of relevant evidence on his person because he had sent them to his attorney."

Correia claims the materials are protected by attorney-client privilege and his lawyers have asked a judge to preclude them from use at trial.

The West Palm Beach, Florida, man has pleaded not guilty along with three others charged with arranging illegal contributions to politicians to aid their political and business interests.

When he was arrested Oct. 16, Correia had a phone case, multiple phone chargers, and charging cords with him, but no electronic devices, they said.

Prosecutors said an FBI analysis shows that his hard drive and iPhone contain tens of thousands of documents, images, and audio and video files along with data such as internet browsing history and location information while a computer contains hundreds of thousands of documents, images, and audio and video files.

So far, only special prosecutors not working on the criminal case have looked at the materials to screen out materials they believe are subject to attorney-client privilege. Prosecutors say they will not look at the evidence until the judge rules.

Prosecutors said Correia was involved in a scheme to make illegal campaign donations to local and federal politicians in New York, Nevada and other states to get support for a new recreational marijuana business.

Two other men charged in the case, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, worked with Giuliani to try and get Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of Democrat Joe Biden. They have both pleaded not guilty as well.

Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who has served as a legal adviser to President Donald Trump, has said he had no knowledge of illegal donations and hadn’t seen any evidence that Parnas and Fruman did anything wrong.