Hollywood star Lori Loughlin and 22 other defendants in the nationwide college admissions cheating scandal on Tuesday opposed an attempt by federal prosecutors to restrict how defense lawyers can share discovery evidence they receive from the government in the high-profile case.
The defense attorneys submitted their opposition in legal filings in US District Court in Boston.
That’s where Loughlin, best known for her scene-stealing portrayal of Aunt Becky on the sitcom “Full House,” and 49 other people are facing various felony charges in connection with the breathtaking scam that exploded into the headlines last month.
Prosecutors say wealthy parents including celebrities, titans of industry, and high-rolling financiers paid bribes to have their children falsely certified as athletic recruits at fancy colleges and universities, or to facilitate cheating on their kids’ SAT and ACT exams.
Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, face charges including money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering for allegedly paying $500,000 to get their two daughters admitted to USC as bogus recruits for the crew team. Neither daughter rows.
In a Tuesday filing from attorneys for the glitzy pair and 14 other defendants, defense counsel said the government’s proposed protective order — which seeks to “prevent individuals outside the Defense Team from accessing the [evidentiary] materials” — doesn’t pass muster.
“Defendants object to the substance of the government’s proposed protective order as well as the government’s failure to meet and confer with the Defendants prior to filing the Motion in violation” of applicable rules, the filling said. “ ... Defendants will attempt to meet and confer with the government in an effort to narrow the areas of disagreement. In the absence of an agreement, Defendants will file an opposition to the Motion no later than April 23, 2019.”
The filing didn’t elaborate on why the defense lawyers object to the proposed protective order.
But in a second filing Tuesday, lawyers for another group of defendants, including four former college coaches, also took aim at the proposal, and they didn’t hold back.
“The government’s proposed order is remarkable for its breadth,” the separate filing said. “It seeks to shelter materials already disclosed within its own pleadings, indeed, even materials involving ‘court and legal process.’ That the proposed order is tactical, a barely disguised one-way burden on the defense with no reciprocal obligations on the government, is made obvious where not-a-single page of discovery is left unconstrained.”
The filing said “the government has made unbridled use of the ‘sensitive’ materials” in publicly available court documents, “with highly specific allegations about financial transactions, intercepted conversations, and test scores, all chum in the water for a receptive press but which it now seeks to encapsulate in secrecy.”
A protective order, the filing asserted, “is a constraint on the preparation of a defense. It puts defense counsel at risk of a contempt finding in its interactions with prospective witnesses; it requires the defense to seek aid of court, or worse, to divulge its defenses in order to shake free of a constraint which should never have been imposed. ... Why the need for a protective order for such documents when the government outlined its intent to use these materials aggressively at trial? Or for that matter, why the need for a protective order for email and other electronic communications which it freely divulged throughout its affidavit?”
For the record, here’s what prosecutors are seeking, according to previously filed court documents:
“It is ORDERED that members of the Defense Team shall maintain the Discovery Materials [such as wiretap recordings, grand jury records, bank records, tax records, college applications and records], in accordance with this Order at their office and that the Discovery Materials shall be used by the Defense Team solely and exclusively in connection with the litigation and trial of this case,” the proposed order said. “Defense Team members shall take reasonable steps necessary – including loading the Discovery Materials onto secure servers or networks – to prevent individuals outside the Defense Team from accessing the materials.”
The proposed order also included the proviso that “the Defense Team shall not provide or distribute any copies of any Discovery Materials to the defendants. The defendants in this case are permitted to review the Discovery Materials in the presence of a Defense Team member at the office of a Defense Team member, subject to the terms of this Order.”
In a recent motion for the protective order, the feds said “the discovery materials include high school records, college entrance exam records (including exam scores), college applications, and medical records (including psychological evaluations) for children of the defendants as well as other third-party individuals. The discovery materials also include personal and financial information of the defendants and third parties, including bank records and tax records.”
In addition, prosecutors said, the “discovery materials further include information concerning uncharged co-conspirators and targets of the investigation who have not yet been publicly charged. Courts in this district and nationwide have acknowledged the importance of safeguarding personal identification, financial, and health information from unnecessary disclosure.”John R. Ellement of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.