It is claimed that the government manufactured evidence to gain a conviction in a case before the Eastern District of New York. The trial judge just decided that normal discovery rules do not apply.

What are the consequences if government agents conduct unauthorized operations with no errors, setting a precedent where evidence alterations go undetected and unchallenged?”

— Suneel Chakravorty

On March 7, 2024, Eastern District of New York Senior Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis ruled in the case of US v. Raniere, setting a potentially precedent-setting stance on evidence handling. I assure you that if this were any other run of the mill case, it would get attention. Yet, because it deals with highly toxic content and subjects, the media stays away for fear of being on the wrong side of a social agenda. This is another case of trial by media, with fears of cancellation and protests. While not the same topic at all, we see this happen with many politicized issues today, where the angry mob gets to dictate policy, legislation and jury decisions because the majority who may disagree are too timid to open their mouths for fear of being attacked.

In this case, the Federal government secretly used an unidentified FBI “photograph technician,” who is being accused of altering and forensically manipulating an unpreserved, key piece of evidence. The agents who were involved in this kept the FBI “photograph technician” off of the chain of custody. (See Doc 1230, 1233, and 1235, linked below.) This operation, and the existence of this FBI ‘photograph technician’ remained hidden until four years after the trial, challenging the integrity of the legal process.

However, senior United States district judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Nicholas G. Garaufis, just ruled that the government is not required to turn over any discovery materials relating to this operation. (See Doc. 1238)

This establishes a concerning precedent in the Eastern District of New York, allowing prosecution teams or FBI agents to involve unauthorized internal or external experts in the examination of original, unpreserved evidence while excluding them from the official chain of custody records. Furthermore, should such involvement be uncovered in the future, there is no obligation to disclose the identity of these experts or details regarding their actions.

In the Raniere case, the mishandled evidence at issue is a Canon camera and memory card, which the government argued was the source of alleged contraband and established the link between the photos and the defendant. This item was crucial evidence, which the government said was “at the heart” of their case. The government has conceded it was altered in FBI custody, and seven Defense forensic experts, including four former FBI forensic examiners, have further concluded that the memory card was intentionally tampered with.

The government disclosed the existence of the secret operation only when responding to the Defense’s motion for a new trial, which showed that file dates on the camera card had been altered while in FBI custody. The government’s revelation was made to assert that the mishandling and alteration of evidence was innocent – not “law enforcement ‘tampering’.”

This situation poses a stark question that may affect future cases: What are the consequences if government agents conduct unauthorized operations with no errors, setting a precedent where evidence alterations go undetected and unchallenged?

Mr. Raniere is represented by a formidable legal team, including Professor Alan Dershowitz, Arthur Aidala of Aidala Bertuna & Kamins, PC in new York, and Joseph Tully, of Tully & Weiss in California.

Links to relevant legal motions and filings cited above are available here for Case No. 1:18-cr-00204: