(CN) – Lance Armstrong may see documents from the federal government’s criminal doping investigation in the wake of the U.S. Postal Service’s sponsorship of Armstrong’s former team, a federal judge ruled.
The United States joined Armstrong’s former teammate Floyd Landis’ False Claims Act lawsuit in District of Columbia Federal Court in April 2013 against Armstrong, former team manager Johan Bruyneel and Armstrong’s management company Tailwind Sports .
The U.S. Postal Service sponsored the team from 1996 to 2004, paying more than $42 million sponsorship fees as Armstrong won six of his seven Tour de France titles.
Landis sued Armstrong and Bruyneel in 2010, claiming the manager knew team members were using banned drugs and that Armstrong and Tailwind Sports, among others, knowingly flouted USPS sponsorship agreements signed in 1995 and 2000 .
If successful, Landis will receive up to 30 percent of any recovery as a whistle-blower.
Armstrong was stripped of all seven of his Tour de France titles, for doping, and banned him from the sport for life.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency also stripped Landis of his 2006 Tour de France win, and banned him from the sport for 2 years, after he tested positive for banned substances.
The federal government joined the lawsuit after USADA released a “reasoned decision” in 2012 that accused Armstrong of running the most sophisticated doping program in sports history. Armstrong later admitted to many of the allegations in a January 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey.
In preparation for trial, Armstrong’s attorneys have sought access to witness interviews the federal government conducted during its criminal doping investigation from 2009 to 2012. Federal prosecutors announced at its conclusion that criminal charges would not be pursued against Armstrong.
U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper on Monday granted in part Armstrong’s motion to compel production of documents. The judge disagreed with the federal government’s argument that the documents from the criminal investigation are protected work product.
Cooper noted the court’s previous distinction between protected “opinion” work product, which reflects an attorney’s mental processes, and “fact” work product, which encompasses “relevant, non-privileged facts” and is discoverable if a substantial need and unavailability by other means is shown.
“Accordingly, courts in this district have held substantially verbatim witness statements contained in interview memoranda that have not been ‘sharply focused or weeded’ by an attorney to be fact rather than opinion work product,” the 7-page opinion states.
“The court previously ruled that Armstrong has demonstrated a substantial need for any law enforcement memoranda created during the now-closed criminal investigation that contain relevant fact work product only. The court explained that because the civil lawyers litigating this qui tam action have received a substantial advantage from having access to the fruits of the prior criminal investigation, fairness dictates that both sides have equal access to relevant witness statements developed by law enforcement in the prior criminal investigation.”
But Cooper refused to order the release of interview records during a separate civil investigation, disagreeing with Armstrong’s claim that the federal government waived any claim of opinion work product.
“(T)he memoranda before the Court at the time of the hearing consisted largely of law enforcement memoranda created during the criminal investigation as opposed to those created by the civil litigation team,” the opinion states. “The hearing also preceded the Court’s guidance regarding the application of the work-product privilege to this matter and its in camera review of the specific memoranda at issue.”
The documents show the civil attorneys “shaped the topics that were covered” and “framed the questions that were asked,” Judge Cooper wrote.
In June 2014, a D.C. federal judge refused to toss allegations that Armstrong knowingly made a false statement to conceal an obligation to pay the federal government money.
“The government’s and [Landis’] complaints are rife with allegations that Armstrong had knowledge of the doping, and that he made false statements to conceal the doping and the attendant obligation which would have resulted if the government had known of the doping,” U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins wrote in the 81-page ruling. “The court therefore denies the motion to dismiss the reverse false claims count against Armstrong.”
Wilkins did, however, dismiss conspiracy and other claims against Thom Weisel, a California-based financier who owned the USPS team.
Landis “failed to allege that Mr. Weisel ’caused’ to be made or used a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim,” Wilkins wrote. “Furthermore, there are insufficient allegations that Weisel had knowledge of the doping, and without such knowledge, he could not have had knowledge of any obligation to repay the government or have a purpose to conceal, avoid or decrease any such obligation.”
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