Saying the interrogation at a Baton Rouge hotel was far from a “friendly Kumbaya campfire singalong,” an attorney for a local private investigator accused in a failed bid to obtain the tax returns of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump is once again urging a federal judge to disallow the statements he made to armed agents in October.
Jordan Hamlett was “tricked” into meeting at the Embassy Suites with special agents of the FBI and U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration who did not advise him of his Miranda rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present during the questioning, Hamlett’s attorney, Michael Fiser, argues in federal court documents filed Sunday.
Fisher contends Hamlett, 31, of Baton Rouge, was not free to leave the hotel during the more than two-hour interrogation and that the statements he made were not voluntary.
Acting U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson declined comment Tuesday on Hamlett’s latest court filing.
Federal prosecutors have said previously that Hamlett wasn’t in custody at the time of his interview with agents, so it wasn’t necessary to read him his rights.
U.S. District Judge James Brady held a hearing in March on Hamlett’s motion to suppress his statements, statements that prosecutors say included Hamlett’s volunteered admission that he had committed a crime. The judge has not ruled on the defense request, allowing time for post-hearing written arguments.
A transcript of the hearing’s testimony indicates agents did not know at the time of the Oct. 27 interrogation if Hamlett had been successful in obtaining Trump’s tax returns, and they feared a public release of the financial documents could influence the presidential election that was less than two weeks away.
“In their zeal to prevent the hacking of a presidential candidate — a candidate who himself, ironically, openly encouraged Russia to hack his opponent — agents breached Miranda procedures in failing to administer Miranda warnings before initiating Hamlett’s interrogation …” Fiser alleges in the post-hearing memorandum electronically filed Sunday.
Fiser says agents lured Hamlett to the hotel by posing as potential clients of his in a domestic investigation.
Hamlett turned over his cellphone and house key to the agents, only to learn later that agents “had kicked-in the door of his home anyway,” Fiser claims.
“Indeed, federal agents already believed Hamlett had violated federal law well before tricking him into meeting with them at the hotel,” Hamlett’s attorney states. “So, even though every Government agent had already concluded that Hamlett was the bull’s-eye of their Trump tax return hacking investigation, Hamlett was never warned that he had a right to remain silent or consult with a lawyer prior to being sandbagged by agents armed with search warrants.”
The agents, Fiser says, also were armed with badges and guns.
“The Government’s attempt to paint Hamlett’s interrogation as a friendly Kumbaya campfire singalong is betrayed by the actions of the agents themselves,” he argues.
Fiser adds that the agents’ interactions with Hamlett can be fairly characterized as the “functional equivalent of formal arrest and were indeed coercive.”
A federal grand jury indicted Hamlett in November on a felony charge of misrepresenting his Social Security number. A conviction on the charge carries up to five years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty.
Hamlett is accused of using an online student financial aid tool to try to access Trump’s tax returns.
Prosecutors have said in court documents that Hamlett “sounded proud of what he had done.”