From Mint Press News:
On Friday July 22, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton issued a 17-page ruling which found the practice of placing recording devices on the steps of courthouses in Oakland and Martinez, California to be “unsettling,” but not in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The four defendants in the federal criminal fraud case are accused of rigging real estate bids throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
In an attempt to eavesdrop on the conversations of the defendants, the Federal Bureau of Investigations placed microphones in a light fixture on the steps of the Almeda County Courthouse and just outside the Contra Costa County Courthouse, among other locations. The information gathered from the conversations was then used as evidence in grand jury proceedings.
The defense called the secret recordings a violation of Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure and asked for the evidence to be suppressed. Judge Hamilton ruled that the four defendants did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when speaking in public about the alleged fraud.
“While the court agrees with defendants that it is at the very least unsettling that the government would plant listening devices on the courthouse steps given the personal nature of many of the conversations in which people exiting the courthouse might be engaged, it is equally unrealistic for anyone to believe that open public behavior including conversations can be private given that there are video cameras on many street corners, storefronts and front porches, and in the hand of nearly every person who owns a smartphone,” Hamilton wrote in her ruling.
The four defendants, Michael Marr, Gregory Casorso, Javier Sanchez and Victor Marr, are accused of conspiring to restrain competition by agreeing not to compete with one another during auctions for foreclosed properties and then splitting the proceeds or taking place in private …