Are federal prosecutors reading inmates' emails to their attorneys? Memo suggests answer may be yes

A judge has ordered federal prosecutors in Brooklyn to stop reading a high-profile New York prison inmate’s email to his attorney, at least for now.

A lawyer for a reputed crime boss awaiting trial in an extortion case told U.S. District Judge Allyne Ross last week about a memo from the criminal division chief of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn. It says prosecutors there intend to review all email between inmates and their counsel sent via the local prison computer system, reports the New York Daily News.

Ross agreed to put a freeze on the practice as far as attorney Steve Zissou’s client is concerned until the issue is litigated.

Zissou called the practice “immoral and unprofessional” and said it is already occurring. Peter Kirchheimer, who serves as chief of the Brooklyn federal defender’s office, tells the newspaper he intends to ask presiding judges in every case in which his office is involved for a similar ruling.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James McGovern declined to comment when contacted by the Daily News. However, in the memo obtained by the Daily News, McGovern is quoted as saying that attorney-client privilege doesn’t apply to email because a log-in screen on the prison computer system in the Metropolitan Detention Center requires the user to consent to “monitoring and information retrieval for law enforcement and other purposes,” the newspaper reports.

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