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Judge Orders Release of Spitzer Wiretap Material

(CN) - A federal judge in New York ordered the government on Thursday to release the wiretapping materials it used to investigate the Emperors Club VIP prostitution ring at the heart of the Eliot Spitzer scandal.

Citing a "strong and obvious public interest in disclosure," U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff granted The New York Times' request to unseal affidavits and other materials used to obtain two federal wiretaps on the Emperors Club high-priced prostitution and money-laundering ring. The investigation led to the guilty pleas of four individuals who ran the ring.

The probe also indicated that former Gov. Spitzer was the "Client 9" referred to in the federal wiretaps. Spitzer resigned last March, but was never criminally charged.

The four operators - Mark Brener, Cecil Suwal, Temeka Rachelle Lewis and Tanya Hollander - pleaded guilty to conspiracy and money laundering.

The government opposed the Times' request for disclosure, citing privacy concerns and the need to protect law enforcement's surveillance tactics.

An attorney for the Times agreed to let the government redact the names and identifying information of all customers, except Spitzer, who had already been publicly identified.

Rakoff sided with the newspaper, saying the court had "good cause" to unseal the documents after the investigation ended.

"[T]here is no continuing need for confidentiality concerning the investigation, which has concluded," Rakoff wrote, "nor are there sensitive law-enforcement techniques at stake.

"In such circumstances, the very kind of materials here in issue are routinely unsealed after indictment, if only temporarily, so that defense counsel can review, and challenge, the wiretaps."

The judge ordered the government to produce the materials by Feb. 24.

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