Attorney-Client Privilege

Feds Searched Wash. Lawyer's Office in Witness-Tampering Probe

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Underlining the risk to lawyers who are suspected of crossing the line from client representation to assisting in alleged criminal conduct, a Washington state newspaper reports that the office and home of an attorney representing a millionaire defendant in a child porn case have been searched.

Although the unnamed “third party” attorney hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing as a result of the FBI’s unusual search in May, he or she is under investigation for witness tampering, according to the Seattle Times. Meanwhile, the defendant, Weldon Marc Gilbert, is now facing two new federal charges of obstruction of justice that apparently relate to the search of the lawyer’s office.

Gilbert’s main defense attorneys, who are not suspected of any wrongdoing, contend that the government has overreached, the newspaper writes. “Gilbert’s lawyers say prosecutors, in their zeal to put the former UPS pilot behind bars, are tampering with the inviolable attorney-client privilege.” They are apparently seeking to suppress potential evidence obtained in the search, contending that their client should have been allowed to assert the privilege but wasn’t.

The unnamed third-party lawyer is suspected of having attempted to contact a central witness in Gilbert’s upcoming trial and of having failed to report knowledge of a felony to authorities, the article states.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle says officials follow strict guidelines when searching an attorney’s office, noting that such a search is “not unheard-of, but it’s not common,” the Times writes. A search warrant for a lawyer’s office has to be approved by a high-ranking official at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

Related coverage: “Lawyer’s Knowledge Used Against Him” “Feds Can Review N.J. Lawyer’s Client Files, Judge Rules” “50 Lawyers Pack Court to Support Solo Whose Office Was Searched” “Want the Gov’t to Read Legal Docs? Travel Abroad With a Laptop”

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