By Chesnoff and Schonfeld, Special for USDR
U.S. District Court Judge Andrew P. Gordon ruled Friday that the U.S. government violated the constitutional rights of a Las Vegas hotel guest when FBI agents cut off DSL service to his room and dressed up as technicians as a ruse to gain video and other evidence in the room.
The ruling is a sweeping rebuke of the government’s behavior in the case, which involved Malaysian businessman Paul Phua. David Chesnoff and Thomas Goldstein, attorneys for Phua, declared it a huge victory for American consumers and privacy advocates.
“This is an extremely important decision for anyone who values their privacy,” said Chesnoff. “Government agents trampled on Mr. Phua’s rights throughout their investigation.”
Goldstein, a noted constitutional lawyer, said the ruling sets an important precedent.
“This is a monumental ruling protecting Americans’ privacy in the modern age,” he said. “We are very grateful that Judge Gordon recognized the breadth of the government’s misconduct.”
U.S. Judge Gordon ruled in the case of Phua, a professional poker player accused by the U.S. government of running an online sports-betting operation from suites at Caesar’s in Las Vegas.
In his ruling, Gordon ruled that the government violated Phua’s rights by:
- Not leaving Phua’s suite when asked by a Caesar’s employee.
- Cutting off DSL service to gain access.
- Providing Phua no access to his attorneys when asked.
- Misrepresenting omitting information in the subsequent search warrant application
“Permitting the government to create the need for the occupant to invite a third party into his or her home would effectively allow the government to conduct warrantless searches of the vast majority of residents and hotel rooms in America,” Gordon wrote. “Authorities would need only to disrupt phone, Internet, cable or other ‘non-essential” service and then pose as technicians to gain warrantless entry to the vast majority of homes, hotel rooms and similarly protected premises across America.”
Gordon said such a ruse is contrary to “the very core of the Fourth Amendment.”
Gordon granted Phua’s motion to suppress evidence gathered in the search of his villa.
SOURCE Chesnoff and Schonfeld