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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Familiar Face From Cohen Case Enters Giuliani Device Probe

Appointment of the same special master who sorted out privilege matters in Michael Cohen's case reinforces parallels to the criminal probes engulfing another of former President Trump's lawyers.

MANHATTAN (CN) — The same former judge who oversaw the review of files from the now-disbarred lawyer Michael Cohen has been charged with looking through the devices seized from Rudy Giuliani’s home and office, as part of a criminal investigation into the erstwhile Trump attorney’s dealings in Ukraine. 

Cellphones and computers were among the materials seized in the April 28 raid, when federal investigators executed a search warrant on Giuliani’s Manhattan properties. With the former New York City mayor asserting that any investigation of his property would trample attorney-client privilege, however, U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken on Wednesday appointed a retired colleague from the Southern District of New York, Barbara S. Jones, as special master. 

A member for the past several years of the private firm Bracewell, Jones will review the findings of Giuliani’s warrant, as well as a separate warrant, executed the same day in April, to search a previously seized electronic device belonging to attorney Victoria Toensing. Oetken previously refused to grant either lawyer special access to their materials before discovery.

“They cite no legal authority for this request, and the court is aware of none,” Oetken wrote on May 28.

“If Giuliani is charged with a crime, of course, he will be entitled to production of the search warrant affidavits as part of discovery,” the judge wrote, citing federal criminal procedure. 

That Jones was appointed to make similar privilege determinations about materials seized from Michael Cohen, another attorney who worked for former President Donald Trump, was not lost on Oetken. 

Between late April and August of 2018, Jones filed half a dozen reports regarding the 4 million files that the FBI seized from Cohen’s apartment, office and hotel room in the fraud investigation that led to Cohen pleading guilty to campaign finance violations, tax evasion and bank fraud.

Jones’ final report in that case found that just under half of the nearly 5,000 items flagged by Cohen and Trump as privileged or highly personal met the bar. The other materials were handed over to the government. 

In her review of Giuliani’s electronics, Jones has been ordered to “proceed with all reasonable diligence.” 

As Jones makes ongoing, ex parte reports to the court on her progress resolving privilege issues, the parties may object within seven days after each report, Oetken declared in the 3-page order. 

An order establishing how the special master will be compensated will come later. 

An attorney for Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. 

In a previous email to Courthouse News, Robert J. Costello, of the firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, called appointment of a special master “inevitable,” and said he did not oppose the ruling appointing such a reviewer.

Follow @NinaPullano
Categories / Criminal, Law, Politics

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