Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Why charging illegal entry?

Someone asked me why O'Keefe has been charged with illegal entry rather than wiretapping.

The answer is that this is likely a holding charge. The prosecutors have all the evidence they need to win a conviction for attempting to gain entry to Federal property for the purpose of committing a crime. That alone carries a sentence of ten years. Burglary is the act of breaking and entering for a criminal purpose. The actual taking of property a separate offense: theft.

But the FBI and the prosecutors will almost certainly be adding additional charges before taking the case to a grand jury. They will also be looking to see if the group have attempted any other breakins and in particular the possibility that they might have succeeded.

What charges are likely? Well the Pellicano case is a fairly close comparison. Pellicano was eventually sentenced in December 2008 to 15 additional years in prison, and ordered (with two other defendants) to forfeit $2 million [Wikipedia].

Pellicano was engaged in his activities for several years and so he was charged with RICO Conspiracy. He also attempted to cover up his activities and so he was charged with witness tampering, false statements and destruction of evidence.

Of the Pellicano charges, the charge of Interception of Wire Communications does not apply on the basis of the facts set out in the indictment. It would apply if the conspirators had been allowed to actually place the wiretap and it was used to intercept a communication. But had that happened I would expect it to have been reported in the affidavit and charged as per the indictment. It may turn out that the conspirators intercepted other communications in which case they would be liable for either a one year or a five year sentence depending on the circumstances.

A count of Posession of an Electronic Communication Interception Device (18 USC 2512) seems likely, but that only has a sentence of five years.

According to the facts as we currently understand them, the activities of O'Kefee and his conspirators were nowhere near as extensive as those of Pellicano, nor did they succeed. But against that there is the fact that they attempted to bug the telephone of a United States Senator.

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