You Only Think You've Got Rights - Part 5
by Edgar J. Steele
I learned that the government secretly and illegally had been recording all my telephone calls to lawyers, save only my judge-approved “attorney of record,” just as I decided to engage Robert McAllister to try my case. By then, of course, all my telephone conversations with “Mac” and attorney Wesley Hoyt (whom I had tried to hire) had been recorded and, with them, every shred of my evidence, trial strategy and witness testimony. The Federal prosecutor knew my defense as well as I did.
What was I to do? As we saw in Part II, both Washington statute and the written jail policy said no calls would be recorded without a court order and no such order had issued. The jail guards refused me access to any telephone except those reserved for inmate use. Those same guards assured me, time and again, that none of my calls were being recorded. If I wanted to find a new lawyer, which I desperately needed to do, I had to use a phone that, unbeknownst to me, was secretly tapped and recorded by the US Marshals Service for the federal prosecutor seeking to imprison me for the rest of my life.
Nobody told me that the feds had an unwritten policy that all federal inmates’ calls to legitimate attorneys not “of record” secretly would be taped. If they had told me, I never would have believed that the federal judge on my case would bless such blatantly illegal and un-Constitutional conduct… but that is exactly what Judge Winmill did.
But, wait, it gets even worse. In addition to listening in to my phone calls with lawyers, the government also opened my mail to lawyers and, even, secretly listened in to my “private” in-person conferences with my lawyers.Next week, I will tell you about my private conferences with attorneys that were secretly monitored by the feds. This week, let me tell you about a couple of letters I sent to attorneys that were opened by the US Marshals Service and copied for the federal prosecutor on my case. How do I know? Because, incredibly, the feds were brazen enough to produce copies back to me in pretrial discovery, replete with Bates numbering stamps.
Enclosed is one of those letters. Note that, in both cases, I wrote “Legal Mail” on the face of the envelopes, along with “Atty At Law” in conjunction with each lawyer’s name. Note also that each letter dealt very specifically with my defense.
See those six-digit numbers in the lower, right-hand corners? Those are the “Bates-number stamps” placed on all documents by the feds that are produced to the defense (me!) for their use as trial evidence.
I told both Roger Peven (my then-public defender) and Mac (my-soon-to-be “Attorney of Record”) about these letters, upon seeing them in the government’s pretrial document production. Neither was surprised and, incredibly, both eventually were to do nothing about this blatantly-illegal invasion of my attorney-client-privileged written communications.
In one of the letters, I tried to guide Mac (my soon-to-be-but-not-quite-yet “Attorney of Record”), in transitioning from Peven’s office by noting that Peven’s associate attorney “is useless.” I pointed that out to Peven as likely being why the feds produced the letter back to us, as an attempt to further divide Peven and myself. Totally ignoring the point I was making about the secret and illegal violation of my attorney-client privilege, Roger Peven told me, “Oh, she (his associate attorney) probably hasn’t even seen it.”
Note the matter of fact way that Roger Peven seemed to share my opinion of his associate attorney, who should already have examined every shred of evidence produced to us by the feds! Mr. Peven neglected to do anything about the un-Constitutional conduct by the Federal prosecutor.
I also should note that I placed all legal mail letters to attorneys, sealed, in the box at the jail labeled “U.S. Mail.” The supervising guard assured me that, once mail went into that box it was in the U.S. postal system and if anybody opened it (other than the addressee) a federal crime would be committed. Just as with my secretly-recorded phone calls to lawyers, thus was I lulled into yet another naïve complacency.