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Defense attorney says feds used dirty tactics to flip witness in Mar-a-Lago case

Prosecution claims of conflicts of interest undermine attorney-client relationships in the Mar-a-Lago case, a defense attorney argues.

(CN) — A defense attorney in the classified documents case against former President Donald Trump claims federal prosecutors used underhanded tactics to convince his former client to become a cooperating witness.

The U.S. Department of Justice revealed last month an IT specialist at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort became a key witness after he severed his relationship with Stanley Woodward, a Washington attorney paid for by the former president’s political action committee.

Woodward, who represents Trump aide and co-defendant Walt Nauta, responded Tuesday in a court filing that the government had misled the judge about the flipped witness to “publicly impugn” his work.

The IT specialist, who has not been identified in court documents, began cooperating with authorities in July after a federal judge appointed a public defender to discuss potential conflicts of interest in his case.

After speaking with the public defender, the IT specialist signed a nonprosecution agreement with prosecutors. He told authorities he lied to a grand jury in March — he knew more about the case than he let on, according to court records.

Not long after, prosecutors would bring new charges against Trump, Nauta and a third co-defendant, Carlos De Oliveira, on accusations they plotted to destroy incriminating security footage at Mar-a-Lago.

A superseding indictment filed July 27 accuses De Oliveira of pressuring the IT specialist to delete the footage last summer at the request of “the boss.” The IT specialist responded he “would not know how to do that, and that he did not believe that he would have the rights to do that.”

Ultimately, the footage was turned over to authorities.

Now prosecutors want a hearing to discuss conflicts of interest that could arise from Woodward’s representation of Nauta. The IT specialist will likely testify at Nauta’s trial in May — is it ethical for Woodward to cross-examine his former client?

Woodward said Tuesday he would support a meeting with the judge to ensure Nauta understands conflicts may exist and waives them freely, but the government should have no role in the discussions.

The defense attorney accused prosecutors of using vague concerns over conflicts of interest to undermine attorney-client relationships and diminish the court’s authority. By asking the court to appoint his clients a second attorney, the government hoped to induce them into signing cooperating agreements, Woodward said.

Woodward asked U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon to bar the IT specialist from testifying at Nauta's trial.

A hearing on the issue has not been scheduled.

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Categories / Courts, Criminal, Government, National

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