Criminal Defense Attorney Anastase Markou of Levine & Levine shared his legal expertise with MLive.com regarding the U.S. Attorney’s Office request for permission from a federal judge to share secret grand jury testimony in the case against six men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The motion says the testimony would be given to state Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office for the prosecution of eight more alleged kidnap plotters who are separately facing state charges in Jackson and Antrim counties.
“During the grand jury investigation in this case, the government has taken testimony from one or more witnesses, and expects to examine additional witnesses,” the Jan. 22 federal court motion to release grand jury testimony said. “These witnesses have, and are expected to, describe their roles within militia groups and their participation in components of the plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer, including their presence at key training, planning, and reconnaissance meetings.”
The request to release testimony of informants to the state Attorney General’s Office is an indication those witnesses may also testify for prosecutors in state court trial, MLive reported. It’s not clear from the motion filed by U.S. Attorney on Jan. 22 if the request is to share only portions or the entirety of the testimony.
Markou, who’s practiced federal criminal defense for 27 years, told MLive he’s not sure why the federal government wants to provide the information to state prosecutors, since the state has “multiple other ways” it could obtain the same information, including subpoenaing witnesses.
“This is an unusual process that is going on right now,” Markou said during his interview. “I’ve never had this experience where there’s been a request from the federal government to release grand jury testimony to a state prosecutor -- never seen it.”
The case involves the prosecution of 14 men, eight in state court and six in federal court, with ties to Michigan militias, including the Michigan Liberty Militia and Wolverine Watchmen. The suspects are accused of conducting military-style training sessions and performing surveillance on Whitmer’s vacation home with the intent of kidnapping the governor or committing other acts of domestic terrorism against Michigan government.
Markou explained to MLive the U.S. Constitution requires the prosecution to release to the defense testimony of any witnesses slated to testify at trial.
The prosecution is “under no obligation to provide each and every statement made,” he added, “just the ones that pertain to the client’s guilt or innocence, particularly with the witnesses who are going to testify at trial.”
Markou told MLive that he believes the prosecution’s ability under court rules to avoid full disclosure of grand jury proceedings “severely hampers the defense’s ability to understand the entire case.”
While attorneys for the defendants may file a brief arguing that the testimony remain secret, Markou said release might benefit the defense.
“As a defense attorney, I want to know everything because I don’t want to be surprised,” he said, “and I want to be the one deciding what I want to use and what I don’t want to use; I don’t want somebody else deciding that.”
Defense attorneys said they need more time to review evidence that’s yet to be turned over by the Attorney General’s Office. The awaited information is expected to be turned over to the defense within two weeks, according to MLive.
Read the entire MLive story, here.