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As Avenatti Seeks To Seal Info in SDNY Stormy Case Inner City Press Gets Leave To Be Heard

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Song Radio
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SDNY COURTHOUSE, Aug 29 – When after three days of jury selection the trial of Michael Avenatti for allegedly extorting Nike began on January 29, Assistant US Attorney Robert Sobelman told the selected jurors that Avenatti was supposed to look out for the interests of his client, but he did not - he had a weapon, social media.  More on 1st day on Patreon here.

 On August 7 in the Stormy Daniels case, Avenatti had motions heard by U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Jesse M. Furman. Inner City Press live tweeted it, here.

 On August 27, Inner City Press filed a formal request that documents in the case not be sealed, full filing on Patreon here: "Only this month in SDNY Magistrates Court the content of CJA Form 23s have been read out in the public record, including for the appointment of Federal Defenders. See, e.g., US v. Castro, et al., 20-mj-8994 (Freeman) & here.

 Those and other defendants whose CJA Form 23 and financial information have been disclosed including in Magistrates Court this month had the same arguments as made by Federal Defenders in their August 21, 2020 letter, that the information might be used against them. And yet the other defendants' information was disclosed.

  Here, the sealing(s) and withholding of the CJA Form 23 and affidavit in their entirety go beyond those requested even in the CIA trial before Judge Crotty, US v. Schulte, 17 Cr. 548.    

 In that case, Inner City Press vindicated the public's right to know, in the docket, see here and here.  Inner City Press recently got even more sensitive filings unsealed in a North Korea sanctions case before Judge Castel, US v. Griffith, 20-cr-15 (PKC), Docket No. 33 (LETTER by EMAIL as to Virgil Griffith addressed to Judge P. Kevin Castel from Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press, dated 5/18/2020, re: Press Access to documents in US v. Griffith, 20-cr-15), 40 (order to unseal) and 41 unsealed filings). See also Inner City Press' May 9, 2020, filing to this Court for openness in US v. Randall, 19-cr-131,  No. 343.  

The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that reporting by the news media allows members of the 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.   Inner City Press has covered the case(s) against Mr. Avenatti for some time, see e.g., May 13, 2020, ESPN Louisville Sports Live, "On this episode of LSL, the guys speak with court reporter, Matthew Russell Lee about the lack of fallout from the evidence exposed about Nike in the Michael Avenatti trial," for example on radio here.

    Inner City Press and I are submitting this a day early in part because we are unsure if the US Attorney's Office will be pushing for openness to the public. In another pending case, US v. Edwards, 19-cr-64 (GHW), the Office had initially said that documents submitted by the defendant (described as the leaker of Paul Manafort's Suspicious Activity Reports) should be put in the public docket. Then, while Inner City Press is pursuing that, the US Attorney's Office has stopped pushing. So, just to preview, we may seek leave to sur-reply depending on what not only the defendants / Federal Defenders but also the US Attorney's Office have to say.   

 Respectfully submitted, /s/ Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press."

  On August 28 Judge Furman entered an order: "The Court received the attached communication from Matthew Lee of Inner City Press “seeking leave to be heard and for the unsealing of the CJA Form 23, affidavit, and all associated documents” relating to this litigation. To the extent that Mr. Lee (who is admitted to the bar of the Southern District of New York) seeks leave to be heard, his application is GRANTED. The Court reserves judgment on the question of whether Defendant’s CJA Form 23 and related documents should be unsealed. SO ORDERED. Dated: August 28, 2020 New York, New York JESSE M. FURMAN." Docket No. 85, on Inner City Press' DocumentCloud, here.

And later the US Attorney's Office said, " in light of the presumption of openness in criminal proceedings and the approach favored by the Second Circuit, the defendant has failed to provide a legally sufficient basis for wholesale and indefinite sealing of the CJA 23 Form and supporting affidavit." Full letter on Patreon here. Now we await Avenatti's / his Federal Defenders' reply. Watch this site.

This case is US v. Avenatti, 19-cr-374 (Furman).


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