One of Keith Raniere’s attorneys, Stacy Scheff, has filed a new motion with the US District Court of Arizona in his lawsuit against the US Bureau Of Prisons.
USP Tucson has refused to let prisoner Raniere talk to his power of attorney, Suneel Chakravorty.
Raniere is suing Merrick Garland, US Attorney General, Michael Carvajal, Director Federal Bureau of Prisons, Barbara VonBlankensee, Warden USP Tucson, and Lt. Anthony Gallion.
He is suing to see and speak with Suneel.
The motion claims USP Tucson is “unlawfully hindering and obstructing Plaintiff’s First and Sixth Amendment rights to communicate via telephone with [Suneel] in the lead-up to the 3-year deadline for post-conviction relief petitions based on newly-discovered evidence on June 19, 2022.”
Raniere, a prisoner at USP Tucson, was convicted on June 19, 2019. There is a three-year deadline for filing Rule 33 motions regarding newly-discovered evidence. The time bar is June 19, 2022, less than a month away.
In addition to his Rule 33 FBI evidence tampering motion, Raniere has several more Rule 33 motions planned.
Suneel is Raniere’s Power-of-Attorney and a paralegal to Raniere’s appellate attorney, Joseph Tully.
Since January 2021, Raniere’s legal team, with Suneel taking the lead, has communicated with him from within the Tucson Penitentiary to develop a strategy to attack Raniere’s conviction.
Suneel is a non-lawyer who serves as the power of attorney and an aide to Tully.
Suneel was able to call and visit Raniere during the first months of 2021. However, on May 2, 2021, Tucson prison authorities revoked Chakravorty’s in-person visitation privileges without explanation. Afterward, he was allowed to speak with Raniere only by telephone on a recorded, non-privileged phone line.
Chakravorty continued to assist Raniere on his appeal and Rule 33 motion. In addition, he hired the California-based criminal defense firm of Tully & Weiss.
Here is a truncated version of the motion.
By Stacy Sheff, attorney for Keith Raniere
Mr. Chakravorty is not merely a trusted confidant; his unique knowledge proved critical to the lawyers’ extensive factual research that culminated on May 23, 2022 with the filing of a motion for a new criminal trial pursuant to Fed.R.Crim.P. 33.
Mr. Chakravorty, a Harvard-trained mathematician with knowledge of computer science, assisted the Law Office of Tully & Weiss for several months in preparing the motion.
Among other things, Mr. Chakravorty marshaled the assistance of subject-matter experts and helped interpret complex and voluminous computer data.
These unique skills allowed the team to assess the accuracy and reliability of the FBI’s computer forensic work – the foundation upon which the federal prosecutors had built their case. Mr. Chakravorty’s assistance proved so essential that the Law Office of Tully & Weiss considered him to be a member of the legal defense team and gave him the position of paralegal to the team.
In addition to searching for any additional grounds for relief before the expiration of the deadline, Plaintiff’s legal team is preparing for a hearing on the petition already filed. Just a day after Plaintiff’s attorneys filed the petition, prison officials in Tucson informed Plaintiff that he would no longer be permitted to speak with Mr. Chakravorty on any phone line, recorded or otherwise.
At the same time, Plaintiff was informed that all of his non-attorney contacts were to be “scrubbed” – eliminated from the pre-approved list of call recipients, effectively cutting Plaintiff off from the outside world. Again, no explanation was provided. This latest move cuts Plaintiff off from the lynchpin of his legal team in the precise moment when Plaintiff must present all new evidence of innocence or forever hold his peace….
Prisoners Have a First Amendment Right to Communicate by Telephone with their Criminal Defense Attorneys.
Prisoners have a First Amendment right of access to the courts. Naturally, this right encompasses a prisoner’s right to communicate with their attorneys – particularly those attorneys whose legal assistance involves “attack[ing] their sentences, directly or collaterally[.].” Hebbe v. Pliler…
Courts within the Ninth Circuit routinely find that this First Amendment right encompasses the right to speak by telephone with one’s criminal defense attorney…. Williams v. ICC Comm…
As the Second Circuit colorfully explained this point in evaluating a prison’s complex system that expressed this point, “delay in communication [with a prisoner’s attorney] caused by the prison’s Rube Goldberg rules may itself be prejudicial to a prisoner’s rights.” Davidson v. Scully… The Seventh Circuit held that denying telephone access to one’s attorney for four consecutive days violates the Sixth Amendment and “may also violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments.” Tucker v. Randall…
This First Amendment Right Encompasses the Right of Prisoners to Speak with Paralegals [Suneel]
… A prisoner’s right to communicate with his attorney extends equally to the attorney’s paralegal. The Ninth Circuit has consistently held that paralegals and other non-attorney professionals retained by the attorney are important to the attorney’s ability to render legal advice. United States v. Sanmina Corp;… United States v. Landof… Similarly, the Ninth Circuit has held that attorneys’ not infrequent reliance on paralegals to assist in the fact-finding effort “counts as professional legal services.” United States v. Rowe…
Nowhere is this principle more elevated than when the non-attorney’s expertise is essential for the attorney to make sense of the facts in a case…
Here, Mr. Chakravorty serves precisely this role on behalf of the attorneys of Tully & Weiss. During the months that Plaintiff’s attorneys spent gathering evidence and preparing the Rule 33 petition for a new trial, Mr. Chakravorty played an essential role in interpreting computer data for the attorneys.
Most notably, Mr. Chakravorty aided in translating voluminous amounts of metadata – information that is embedded within most computer files – revealing critical information about the dates, methods, and origins of document edits and document alterations. Prior to Tully & Weiss being retained, Mr. Chakravorty and Plaintiff spent months discussing, analyzing, and theorizing about how this metadata contained in computer files affects Plaintiff’s legal case. This collaborative process between Mr. Chakravorty and Plaintiff yielded some important revelations – later confirmed by Daubert [qualified] experts – and included in the May 23 motion described above.
It is clear that Mr. Chakravorty is no garden-variety paralegal. But even if Mr. Chakravorty’s role as paralegal were limited to filling out paperwork and aiding in the communication between attorney and client, the prison would still be precluded from cutting off communication, absent a legitimate penological interest. Defendants and their agents have offered to Plaintiff no explanation, let alone a “legitimate” one.
[PRISON’S] ACTIONS AMOUNT TO A SIXTH AMENDMENT VIOLATION OF RANIERE’S RIGHT TO EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL.
Not only are Defendants’ actions in cutting off telephone communication with Mr. Chakravorty a First Amendment violation, they also amount to a Sixth Amendment violation of Plaintiff’s right to effective assistance of counsel…
Government restrictions on communication between criminal defendant and attorney violate the Sixth Amendment when imposed during a critical juncture of the legal representation. For example, the Supreme Court held that a violation of the Sixth Amendment occurs when the government prohibits a criminal defendant from communicating with his attorney for 17 hours during a critical juncture of his trial. Geders v. United States; Tucker v. Randall…
This right also includes the right to communicate with paralegals who are retained by the criminal defense attorney. Smith v. Coughlin… Benjamin v. Fraser…
EQUITIES TIP SHARPLY IN RANIERE’S FAVOR
… Here, the answer is clear: the harm to Plaintiff outweighs any conceivable hardship to Defendants. Indeed, Defendants are already required to have a system to allow secured telephonic communications between prisoners, their attorneys, and their attorneys’ assistants.
On Plaintiff’s side is his constitutional right to communicate openly with this counsel of choice in a rapidly-closing window of opportunity, aid his counsel in preparing a criminal defense, and his Sixth Amendment right to hire and utilize counsel of his choice…
To the extent that Defendants claim that Mr. Chakravorty is banned by reason of his affiliation with Plaintiff’s former organization NXIVM, this holds no weight, for several reasons. First, Mr. Chakravorty has never been a member of NXIVM, NXIVM never had members and is no longer operating… Second, NXIVM was never adjudicated to be a criminal enterprise… Third, the conditions regarding contact with certain individuals applies to supervised release and does not apply to Mr. Chakravorty…
The timing of these actions is unmistakable retaliation for attempting to overturn Plaintiff’s conviction via the proper procedures. Plaintiff Keith Raniere asks the Court to issue an Order that he be allowed to speak with Mr. Chakravorty on both the monitored and unmonitored lines and via legal visits. This matter is particularly urgent given the impending deadline to present all challenges to the criminal conviction based on newly-discovered evidence on June 19, 2022.