A federal judge has ordered defendants in an Alabama corruption case involving gambling-related legislation to tape record all conversations they had with public officials, political candidates, and lobbyists. That is a violation of the Fifth Amendment right to avoid self incrimination, according to a new report.
The actions of U.S. Magistrate Judge Terry Moorer should be alarming to those interested in protecting civil liberties, reports D.C.-based investigative journalist Wayne Madsen. Moorer had ordered the defendants to have no contact with potential witnesses, but recently eased that restriction. The order about tape recording remains in place. From the Wayne Madsen Report (WMR):
The decision to require tape recordings, in effect, requires all conversations to be recorded, which, as one Alabama attorney pointed out, is a violation of the Fifth Amendment rights protecting the rights of accused against self-incrimination. The order also applies to the accused talking to witnesses in the case, although there is a waiver for conversations in which the attorneys of the accused are present.
One defendant, State Sen. Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery) has been particularly vocal about the judge's restrictions. Reports Associated Press:
Ross' attorney, Lewis Gillis, complained in a court hearing Monday that the requirements hampered the preparation of his defense and his ability to do his job as a public official.
But Moorer refused to modify the recording requirement Tuesday, as Ross had sought, and he added a requirement to tape record conversations with lobbyists. Moorer said he had intended to make that part of the conditions on Oct. 4.
The judge's orders also are affecting journalists trying to cover the case. Madsen says that apparently is designed to help cover the questionable activities of Republican Governor Bob Riley:
Perhaps more importantly, the order covers conversations the accused have with journalists covering the case, since it is required that all conversations be recorded to ensure that state business is not being discussed pursuant to the judge's order. That decision effectively nixed plans by WMR to interview some of the accused on the role that Governor Bob Riley played in seeking the indictments in order to cover a $13 million loan made by one of the indicted gambling executives, Milton McGregor, to Riley's 2006 gubernatorial campaign political slush fund.
If such interviews were recorded, information, including journalist sources, would be passed to the US Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, Leura Canary, a Bush-appointed prosecutor who led the campaign to indict former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. Canary is married to Riley's friend and campaign manager, Bill Canary.