By Natasha Robin | WVUE | June 12, 2020
In the ‘fake subpoena’ lawsuit, a Federal Judge rules in favor of D.A. Leon Cannizzaro, but more allegations in the lawsuit remains open.
The lawsuit was filed back in 2017 against the district attorney’s office and several ADA’s.
It alleges the D.A.’s office unlawfully compelled witnesses to cooperate with prosecutors using so called ‘fake subpoenas’. The plantiffs also alleged victims and witnesses were threatened, harassed and in some cases jailed.
“The subpoenas that the D.A. would send out are totally unenforceable. They have the same force as a letter,” says Rafael Goyeneche.
Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission says the documents were used in an attempt to get witnesses to cooperate with prosecutors.
For years, D.A. Leon Cannizzaro maintained the practice was rare, but sometimes necessary in order to secure convictions. He also pointed out, the documents sent from his office held no power to arrest.
“The Judge is the one who orders the person to be arrested pursuant to a material witness bond if the Judge finds that the person has valuable information, important information as it pertains to the case and the Judge finds that the individual has not been susceptible to the court,” says Cannizzaro.
The A.C.L.U. though said in a statement, the bogus subpoenas were an egregious abuse of power by jailing and coercing crime victims with fraudulent subpoenas.
This week, Federal Court Judge Jane Milazzo dismissed all federal civil rights claims against individual prosecutors in the D.A.’s office.
“So, the court reviewed the facts and the evidence presented to it by the plantiffs and said, you’ve presented nothing that justifies the court keeping this matter open,” says Goyeneche.
Part of the suit, though, is still pending, which includes state allegations of abuse of power and a federal claim against the D.A.’s office.
“If there wasn’t sufficient evidence to present to the court against the individual prosecutors in this case, I don’t understand how there will be sufficient evidence against the office in general,” says Goyeneche.
In a statement, the A.C.L.U. says the Judge’s narrow ruling has little to no impact on the core of the case, which is about holding Cannizzaro’s office accountable.