By LOUIS FLORES
Tara Lenich, a former Assistant District Attorney in the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office, pleaded not guilty on Monday to Federal charges that she conducted illegal wiretaps, according to information received by Progress Queens. After pleading not guilty, Ms. Lenich was released on $500,000 bond that she signed and that her parents were expected to sign, according to information obtained by Progress Queens. The next Court date has yet to be set, according to information provided to Progress Queens.
The not guilty plea was entered during an arraignment on Monday afternoon following the unsealing of a Federal Grand Jury Indictment charging Ms. Lenich, age 41, with two counts of crimes, one for cellphone that Ms. Lenich had allegedly fabricated documents in order to support her illegal wiretaps, according to the Indictment.
Ms. Lenich created twenty-four (24) authorisations bearing the forged signatures of various New York State Supreme Court justices to fabricate orders to obtain records for two cellphones from 2015 to 2016, according to the Indictment. Although the Indictment did not name the owners of the two cellphones, press reports have indicated that the cellphones were owned by individuals perceived to be part of a love triange.
To create the forgeries in respect of one of the cellphones, it was alleged that Ms. Lenich "physically cut a copy of each such judge's signature from a legitimate document and taped the signature onto the fraudulent documents she had created," according to the Indictment. During the conduct of the illegal wiretaps, Ms. Lenich "never submitted to any judge any application for permission to intercept communications to and from" the target cellphone, and she "was not authorized" by the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office "to conduct any investigation involving such communications," according to the Indictment.
In connection with the illegal wiretaps, Ms. Lenich was alleged to have lied to her co-workers at the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office, and she "created and submitted several grand jury subpoenas" to cellphone carriers in order to obtain information associated with telephone numbers that communicated with both cellphones that had been targeted for wiretaps. The Indictment included a demand that Ms. Lenich forfeit any device allegedly used in connection with the illegal interception of communications.
The criminal case against Ms. Lenich is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's eastern district, which is headquartered in Brooklyn. That Federal prosecutors' office was responsible for the prosecution, in recent years, of a senior law enforcement official, James Burke, the former police chief for Suffolk County. Although Brooklyn Federal prosecutors have separately faced ethics complaints and criticism over the failure to press civil rights violation charges against a police officer responsible for placing Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold, the Brooklyn Federal prosecutors' office has demonstrated greater independence to prosecute senior law enforcement officers. By comparison, when the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district, headquartered in Manhattan, conducted a reported, wide-ranging, Federal corruption investigation of the New York Police Department, Manhattan Federal prosecutors faced criticism for seemingly allowing then NYPD Commissioner William Bratton to permit the retirement of high-ranking NYPD officers as an alternative to facing investigation.
The aggressive charges against Ms. Lenich follow reports that a detective assigned to a Federal task force was the target of surveillance with possible malintent, according to a report published by The New York Times. There have been other reports about the possible misuse of surveillance. On Monday, The Daily Beast published a report alleging that the U.S. Attorney's Office for Kansas was in possession of recordings of conversations between prison inmates and their attorneys. According to that report, the conversations of at least 700 attorneys were spied upon.
In announcing the unsealing of the Indictment, Acting United States Attorney Bridget Rohde said in a statement, in relevant part, that the the prosecution of Ms. Lenich "reflects the Office’s commitment to protecting the public from the misuse of law enforcement tools, particularly by those entrusted to use those tools in accordance with the laws they have sworn to uphold.” Also in the statement, Acting U.S. Attorney Rohde thanked the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for their coöperation in the case.
- Prosecutors Drop Inquiry Into Charles Hynes, Former Brooklyn District Attorney [The New York Times]