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Lawyers seek access to affidavits used to search law offices

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Lawyers seek access to affidavits used to search law offices10/04/94 FLORIDA -- A Boca Raton lawyer whose offices federal agents…

Lawyers seek access to affidavits used to search law offices

10/04/94

FLORIDA — A Boca Raton lawyer whose offices federal agents raided in early September has filed papers seeking access to sealed documents that the agents submitted in support of their search warrants, the lawyer’s attorney says.

Drug Enforcement and U.S. Customs agents searched the Boca Raton office of Donald Ferguson, as well as the Miami offices of Francisco Laguna of Ristau & Abbell, Robert Moore of Rabin & Moore, and Joel Rosenthal, a sole practitioner. The attorneys have represented people accused of smuggling drugs for the Colombian Cali cartel.

Federal officials declined to comment publicly on or even acknowledge the raids, which were supervised by a Justice Department anti-narcotics unit in Washington, but unnamed officials told the National Law Journal that the agents were looking for evidence that the lawyers had committed crimes such as money laundering and obstruction of justice.

Attorneys for the lawyers have denied any wrongdoing by their clients and say that the agents took more than just evidence related to the cartel. “They seized full computers that had information on them about all sorts of things outside what the government may be looking for,” attorney Neal R. Sonnett told the National Law Journal.

Sonnett later said that the government had not charged any of the lawyers with anything. He also said that he has filed a motion, also under seal, on behalf of Ferguson asking U.S Magistrate Judge Barry L. Garber to make available the search warrant affidavits that he sealed.

Federal courts currently disagree whether to allow access to search warrant affidavits, the documents that law enforcement officials submit to courts to support requests for search warrants. Even after agents have served the warrants, some courts leave the documents sealed at the request of government officials who claim that release of the information might jeopardize informants, law enforcement techniques, or ongoing investigations.