FBI Must Hasten Access for Ill Mob Researcher
(CN) - A terminally ill mafia expert researching alleged FBI corruption deserves access to 5,000 pages a month from the bureau, a federal judge ruled.
Angela Clemente is a forensic analyst who has spent the last decade researching the FBI's relationship with Gregory Scarpa, a Colombo family capo known as "The Grim Reaper" or "The Mad Hatter," who served as an FBI informant since 1961.
She claims that Scarpa's handler FBI Special Agent Lindley Devecchio and others at the FBI actively aided or were complicit in covering up murders and other violent crimes Scarpa and other informants committed.
Though Devecchio was charged with aiding and abetting four murders in 2006, the case was dismissed when the judge found the prosecution's chief witness, Scarpa's former mistress, lacked credibility.
Clemente is currently assisting the Office of Inspector General investigation into the FBI's handling of its informants. She also represents family members of victims of Scarpa's alleged crimes.
Clemente nevertheless "is concerned that she may not live long enough to complete her research," as she is in desperate need of a liver transplant, which doctors tell her she is unlikely to receive in time to save her life.
Given her limited lifespan, Clemente asks the court to expedite the FBI's response to her second request for records pertaining to Gregory Scarpa.
Clemente made her second request under the Freedom of Information Act in October 2011 while still engaged in a legal battle over her first request. She did not receive any responsive documents until six months after her lawsuit was filed, in June 2013.
While the agency first represented that it had 1,420 responsive pages, it now has identified approximately 30,000 additional documents related to Scarpa.
The customary FOIA release rate is 500 pages per month, but Clemente requests that the processing rate be raised to 5,000 per month in light of her ill health and the public importance of her research.
The FBI offered to increase its rate to 2,000 pages per month, but claimed that the review of classified materials is too time-consuming to release the information more quickly.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan overruled the FBI's objections and granted Clemente's request Monday.
"The court has reviewed the medical records Clemente [provided] to verify the extent of her illness, and the court is concerned that if the FBI processes documents at the rate it has proposed Clemente may not be able to complete her important research," Hogan wrote. "As Clemente has noted, her 'June 26, 2011 request was not processed at all until after her lawsuit was filed in 2013, and it took two years to produce a mere 500 pages.'"
Given this unreasonable delay, an expedited response is warranted, according to the ruling.
While "Clemente's request that the FBI process 5,000 pages a month is higher than the rate would be in an ordinary case, the FBI has successfully processed pages at that rate in other cases," the judge added.