(CN) – The FBI must release more records about one of its informants in the Mafia, Gregory Scarpa Sr., a federal judge ruled.
In the 1980s, Scarpa, known as “The Grim Reaper” or “The Mad Hatter,” was a Colombo family capo, short for caporegime, which translates roughly to captain.
Though Scarpa’s information helped the FBI take down several members of La Cosa Nostra, a New York federal judge found that Scarpa also benefitted from information leaked to him by his FBI handler, Lindley DeVecchio.
Prosecutors said DeVecchio’s leaks led to four murders, but they dropped the charges midtrial when new evidence discredited the main witness.
Hoping to learn more about the case, self-described Scarpa expert Angela Clemente asked the FBI in 2008 to release the informant’s unredacted file, and waive the copying and processing fees.
The FBI denied Clemente’s fee-waiver application, but released 500 pages of redacted records that year, along with another 653 in March 2009, withholding some information under various exemptions.
A federal judge in 2010 ruled that Clemente was entitled to the fee waiver, but found that the FBI had conducted an adequate search for the requested documents and was not required to search any further.
Though Clemente could have argued that the FBI should have searched for files in its New York field office, Clemente had only submitted her request for records at the D.C. headquarters, so the agency could limit its search to that location.
After Clemente requested the redacted information, the court ruled that the FBI could withhold some information based on law-enforcement and agency-regulation exemptions, but was not allowed to withhold records of “only historical significance”, such as the number of mob informants operative in the 1960s.
In complying with the court’s decision, the FBI reprocessed a sample of pages submitted by Clemente and released some information it had previously withheld, but maintained some redactions.
Clemente renewed her motion for summary judgment, arguing that the FBI had improperly withheld nonexempt information that was not “inextricably intertwined with exempt portions,” and that the agency’s search for documents responsive to her FOIA request was inadequate. She claimed the FBI had to reprocess the entire set of responsive documents.
Clemente also asked the court to reconsider the previous ruling that the FBI did not have to search for records in its New York office.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein sided with the FBI earlier this month on the adequacy-of-search issue, confirming that the FBI’s New York office did not have to respond to Clemente’s request unless she submitted it to that location.
But the FBI does need to release more information from some of the redacted documents, Rothstein added. If the agency released information that had previously been withheld from the sample records submitted by Clemente, it is likely that other responsive documents contain information that was withheld without justification, according to the ruling.
Rothstein ordered the FBI to reprocess the documents and release all nonexempt information to Clemente.