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In SDNY Sex Trafficking Trial Less Transparent Than CIA Case Even Audio Feed Cannot Be Live Tweeted

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Decrypt - LightRead - Honduras - Source

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 10 – For the nearly concluded trial of accused CIA leaker Joshua Schulte, US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman asked to have the public and press excluded from the courtroom during the testimony of several witnesses.

In that case District Judge Paul A. Crotty scheduled a public hearing on Berman's request, held on January 27 before the trial scheduled to began February 3. Inner City Press was and has been there for both, picked up for example here.

  But dated March 6 and only made available over the weekend was a request by Assistant US Attorney Daniel H. Wolf the same office, asked Judge Paul A. Engelmayer to close his courtroom for another impending trial - with no proposal of a public hearing or any opportunity to be heard by the Press or public. Inner City Press as it did before Judge Crotty opposed this closure, see below.

  With transcripts promised but live tweeting still not allowed, even in the "overflow" Courtroom 506, see below, Inner City Press on March 10 went to Judge Engelmayer's courtroom.

  Hours later, still with the US Attorney's Office not having uploaded any transcript, or even started a file, this was issued: "PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge:  This notice is to inform members of the press and the public that an audio feed of the  testimony referenced in Dkt. 345 will be available in Courtroom 506 of the Thurgood Marshall  U.S. Courthouse, 40 Foley Square, New York, NY." But, Inner City Press is informed, even there no live tweeting will be possible - it is unclear why not. We will have more on this, and on the inaccessibility of the promised transcripts. How can it be that for this sex trafficking trial there is less transparency than for a Central Intelligence Agency trial?

   In Judge Engelmayer's courtroom at the defense table with three lawyers was Carl Andrew or "De." On the stand was one of his victims, called Ms. Greener.
  She described being addicted to crack and asking a man named Mafia, in Brentwood, Long Island, to find her a pimp. That would be De / Andrews, who with his friend Gucci bought gift cards in a 7-11 in Brooklyn, to convert into Bitcoin into a Backpage ad.

  At that point Judge Engelmayer called a break and summoned the lawyers up to the sidebar, saying No court reporting. Nor could the press go forward. The sidebar discussion was not summarized. And it has been made more difficult to cover this trial than the just complete CIA leaks trial of US v. Schulte. This case is US v. Randall, 19-cr-131 (Engelmayer). Watch this site.

  Here's from the order proposed by AUSAs Daniel Wolf, Maurene Comey and others: "Dear Judge Engelmayer: "(5) because the defendant’s immediate family will be permitted in the courtroom during the UC’s testimony, the transcript of the proceeding will be made available to the public shortly after the testimony is given, and a live audio feed in another courtroom also will be provided, the proposed partial courtroom closure is no broader than necessary to protect the UC’s safety and the integrity of ongoing investigations."

  But it was broader than necessary. So, this immediate opposition, to Judge Engelmayer's Chamber (as was done with Judge Crotty in the Schulte case) and cc AUSA Daniel Wolf, see below and now Docket Number 343.

  Judge Engelmayer for now said the transcript has to be available at no cost in 24 hours - but how? - and that a reporter can enter the courtroom during the "closed" witness sessions. But live reporting? Watch this site.

Inner City Press' opposition: "Re: Press Access to US v. Andrews, 19 Cr. 131, including actual same day access to transcripts and exhibits, and press access to the courtroom Dear Judge Engelmayer:    This concerns the request of the US Attorney's Office to "partially" close your courtroom to the press and public in the above-caption case. The request was dated March 6, but Inner City Press only became aware of the request this morning, and immediately opposes it in the same fashion - email to Chambers and deputy to be filed inthe docket and on ECF - as it did in January 2020 to your colleague Judge Paul A. Crotty on a near-similar request by the USAO. 

This timely opposition is filed on behalf ofInner City Press and in my personal capacity. The  access restrictions are unacceptable, and go beyond those requested even in the Central Intelligence Agency trial before Judge Crotty, US v. Schulte, 17 Cr. 548 (PAC).   In that case, the AUSO proposed allowing thepress into the courtroom during the closure, and provided for a continuous live video feed of the proceedings, with camera turned away for certain witnesses,allow for live tweeting of the proceeding as Inner City Press has done. The AUSO also provided exhibits, and in some cases transcripts, in an online file for the press.     Here, AUSA Wolf's letter does not propose any press access to the courtroom during the proposed "partial" closures.Live tweeting would not, apparently, be possible of any portion of the proceedings(see, e.g., your case US v. Jones." 18-cr-834, at #364, pg 23 (October 17,2019). In that case, Inner City Press' live-tweeting drew an "incident report" a copy of which I have yet to see.) This hinders reporting. Given that and the simultaneous US v. Nejad and US v. Schulte, see above, provisions must be made for live-tweeting of this proceeding.

   AUSA Wolf said the public would have the transcripts the night after proceedings - but how? For hundreds of dollars? That is not access. He does not mention access to exhibits, as Inner City Press advocated for and has largely obtained in US v. Schulte, see e.g. its filings in the docket, viewable free (not 10 cents a page) here, here and here.

  The U.S.Supreme Court has recognized that reporting by the news media allows members ofthe public to monitor the criminal justice system without attending proceedings in person. Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v Virginia, 448 U.S. at 572-73  (1980). By attending and reporting on court proceedings, members of the press "function[] as surrogates for the public." Id. at 573.We ask that this be placed in the ECF docket and that these issues be addressed by Your Honor before the trial begins." Watch this site.



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