Saturday, February 18, 2006

Judge favors feds in cellphone bug ruling

Judge favors feds in cellphone bug ruling

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge said Friday the government was within constitutional boundaries when it put a powerful eavesdropping device in a cellphone, turning a suspected mobster into what one defense lawyer called a "human microphone."

The judge said the government got proper approval from other judges as it steadily increased the scope of audio surveillance in an effort to destroy the leadership of the Gambino crime family during a three-year probe.

The eavesdropping was initially limited to a cellphone and a restaurant but was eventually expanded so the recording device could be used in any location and even when the cellphone was not on.

"In my opinion, the roving bug was not unconstitutional as applied," Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said after listening to arguments.

The judge said the government did what was necessary as targets of the investigation tried to evade detection by dodging areas where they believed government surveillance might occur.

Defense lawyers argued that information gained through the cellphone intercepts should be tossed out.

Attorney John L. Pollok said the government crossed a constitutional line when it stopped limiting recordings to conversations in specific places where it suspected criminal activity was underway.

"When they stopped talking about places and started turning that man into a human microphone, that's when they stepped over the line," he said.

Authorities made 32 arrests in the racketeering case a year ago.

Find this article at: