Federal prosecutors overseeing the case against Full House star Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli disputed the defense’s request to have the case dismissed and/or have certain evidence suppressed. But in so doing, the government fessed up to an egregious error concerning said evidence.
Recall: last December, Loughlin and Giannulli accused the prosecution of withholding exculpatory evidence. Law enforcement and prosecutors do this often–even though the practice is expressly illegal. Most prosecutors simply do not get caught in time for those revelations to matter much–if ever.
In February of this year, however, Loughlin and Giannulli claimed to have caught the government red-handed after a series of iPhone notes were produced which tended to support the idea that the government’s lead witness was coerced by federal agents into lying.
One such note from William “Rick” Singer‘s iPhone reads:
Loud and abrasive call with agents. They continue to ask me to tell a fib and not restate what I told my clients as to where their money was going — to the program not the coach and that it was a donation and they want it to be a payment.
In March of this year, Loughlin, Giannulli and other parents fighting the charges moved for the case to be dismissed on the basis that the government’s most important evidence was “deliberately misleading” and possibly fabricated. In the alternative, the defendants requested that evidence–recordings of the parents speaking with Singer–be suppressed as “tainted” under the Fifth Amendment.
“[T]he Government allowed Singer to delete thousands of potentially exculpatory text messages from his cellphone,” the March filing alleged. “And it then mounted an aggressive (and highly successful) pressure campaign against other defendants to secure guilty pleas and lengthy sentences—all while hiding key exculpatory information from defense counsel, the Probation Office, and this Court.”
The defense also accused the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts of “prosecutorial misconduct” and requested “an evidentiary hearing to uncover the full truth about the recordings and the Government’s efforts to fabricate and conceal evidence.”
“At least two members of the prosecution team viewed Singer’s notes 16 months ago, back in October 2018,” the defense noted. “Yet instead of investigating Singer’s assertions—or disclosing the information—the prosecution buried this evidence and repeatedly misrepresented to Defendants and the Court that it had fully complied with its obligations.”
On Wednesday, the government disputed those charges but admitted they were indeed at fault for supplying the evidence late.
“The government should have produced the notes earlier, under the applicable deadline set by the Local Rules,” the prosecution acknowledged in a 36-page court filing, “But the defendants’ contention that the government acted in bad faith is baseless; in a sprawling, fast-moving prosecution, the failure to produce the notes earlier was simply a mistake.”
The government later insists there was no rule violation because the delay was “simply and error”:
[T]he defendants’ contention that the government deliberately withheld exculpatory evidence and committed a Brady violation is meritless because, first, as discussed above, the late disclosure was simply an error, and, second, regardless of how one characterizes the evidence, the government has now–of its own accord–disclosed it months before trial, and the defendants have not been prejudiced.
“At bottom, what the defendants are alleging is that they were entrapped by statements in the consensual recordings that they contend were untrue or misleading,” the prosecution continues. “That is absurd but, in any event, it is an issue for trial.”
The filing by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen E. Frank and Karin M. Bell repeatedly concedes their evidentiary error but consistently invoked the argument that, even if the defense’s allegations are true, the proper way to assess them is during trial–not to dismiss the case itself or any of the evidence marshaled by the government so far.
“The defendants’ claim that this Court should exercise its supervisory powers to suppress the consensual recordings depends almost entirely upon the notion that the recordings are tainted,” the government argues. “But…they are not. Even if the government had instructed Singer to lie to the defendants about where their money had gone–which it did not–the appropriate remedy would be vigorous cross-examination at trial, not suppression.”
“[T]he government’s concession that Singer’s notes should have been produced earlier under the Local Rules does not warrant suppression of the recordings–particularly where, as here, the notes were produced more than half a year before trial, leaving ample time for the defendants to incorporate them into their trial strategies,” the prosecution’s argument continues.
As for the defense’s earlier claim regarding Singer’s deleted text message, the government doesn’t directly address the merit or implications of that charge but, rather, estimates that “the number of deleted iMessages may be smaller than it appears.”
Read the government’s full response below:
The government also filed the following discovery chart on Thursday, setting dates for
[Image via via JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images]
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