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D.C. appeals court issues redacted opinion in sealed corruption case

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  1. Court Access
A federal appeals court unsealed a redacted version of an opinion Thursday in a high-profile but secretive Washington, D.C. corruption…

A federal appeals court unsealed a redacted version of an opinion Thursday in a high-profile but secretive Washington, D.C. corruption case, in response to a letter from the Reporters Committee.

The case reportedly involves Jeffrey Thompson, a campaign booster of D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray. Thompson is accused of financing a shadow campaign for Gray and not abiding by related election laws. The media has expressed frustration covering the high-profile case. All documents on the appellate docket were sealed including briefs, ruling and other significant court documents.

The redacted opinion does not name Thompson, but reporting in The Washington Post and other media sources links him to the case. The opinion involves an appeal by Thompson regarding the return of some seized documents.

On March 22, the Reporters Committee Executive Director Bruce D. Brown wrote to the court, asking it to keep the public aware of its decision-making process and indicate whether a public opinion would be forthcoming.

The appellate court treated the letter as a motion to intervene and unseal part of the record. The court ordered the parties to respond and suggest redactions to its opinion within 30 days. After the parties suggested redactions, Thursday’s opinion followed.

The lower court's ruling was also initially sealed, with a public copy made available only after the parties had suggested redactions.

As part of their investigation, federal authorities raided Thompson’s home and offices and seized dozens of boxes and millions of electronic records.

The opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington (D.C. Circuit) rejected Thompson’s appeal, in which he argued that some of the seized documents were outside the scope of the warrant and should be returned to him.

Instead of affirming the lower court’s decision on the merits of the law, the circuit court dismissed Thompson’s appeal, saying it did not have jurisdiction to rule on the issue.

The appeal was part of Thompson’s legal fight with the federal government over what evidence could be introduced in a potential criminal trial.

The court also noted that Thompson and the government had agreed in January regarding what types of documents would be considered “privileged,” rendering that part of his appeal moot.