Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
In the United States, discovery—the requirement that opposing attorneys share evidence in legal cases—has become even more complicated thanks to modern digital communications. And nowhere is that more evident than in the case of veteran Republican Party operative and self-described “dirty trickster” Roger Stone, who was arrested by well-armed FBI agents early Friday morning, January 25 in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
The 66-year-old Stone is facing seven criminal charges at the federal level, including five counts of making false statements, one count of witness tampering and one count of obstruction of justice. Following his arrest, FBI agents seized several years’ worth of Stone’s communications—many of them digital. And federal prosecutors, according to the Daily Beast, have asked for more time to bring Stone to trial because the discovery process is “both voluminous and complex” and adds up to “several terabytes of information.”
On January 31, Mueller’s team filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia requesting an exception to the Speedy Trial Act because there is so much evidence for prosecutors and Stone’s defense to sort through. Stone’s attorneys did not oppose the motion.
The digital evidence includes Stone’s Apple iCloud and e-mail accounts. The FBI has also seized Stone’s computers, hard drives and smartphones.
To further complicate things, a separate team of FBI agents must separate communications that are privileged: for example, Stone’s communications with his defense attorneys, which are protected by attorney/client privilege.
But communications that will be used as evidence in the case must be shared by Mueller’s team and Stone’s defense attorneys as part of the discovery process—whether they be text messages, e-mails or files on a laptop.
Plowing through all those communications, Mueller’s team will be analyzing, among many other things, Stone’s communications with the Donald Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential race and his efforts to communicate with Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks through an intermediary that year.
In 2016, WikiLeaks published the stolen Democratic e-mails of John Podesta (Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The hacker who stole those e-mails went by “Guccifer 2.0”; Mueller believes that Guccifer was a Russian intelligence official based in Moscow, but Stone has maintained that there is no evidence proving that Guccifer was Russian.