Lawyers denounce Marine Corps raid on offices at Pendleton

JULIE WATSON, Associated Press
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Vehicles file through the main gate of Camp Pendleton Marine Base on Nov. 13, 2013, at Camp Pendleton, Calif.  (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Vehicles file through the main gate of Camp Pendleton Marine Base on Nov. 13, 2013, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — In a rare move, military criminal investigators raided Marine Corps defense counsel offices at Camp Pendleton and opened case files during a 2½-hour search that could compromise scores of military criminal cases if confidential and privileged information was seen, the attorney who oversees the branch’s defense lawyers for the western United States said Friday.

Investigators raided the offices last week in search for a cellphone tied to a case being tried at the base, north of San Diego, Lt. Col. Clay Plummer told The Associated Press.

“This is just unacceptable,” Plummer said. “Just think of the U.S. federal marshals or FBI raiding a public defender’s office, that’s what this is the equivalent to. It’s crazy.”

Marine Corps officials say they plan to conduct an independent review of the evidence seized.

Marine Corps spokesman Jeffrey Nyhart called it a rare but lawful and valid search. Nyhart was working on getting details of the circumstances before commenting further.

The search’s authorization was granted by the area commander, Plummer said, but investigators did not limit their check to the attorney’s office for the case with the cellphone. They searched every attorney’s office, he said.

Plummer said his lawyers will be filing motions with the courts against the action. The seven lawyers in his offices will be contacting hundreds of clients whose cases may have been opened by government investigators.

“Our intent is we are going to fight this behavior through litigation in our courts with the hope our courts can do something so this never happens again,” Plummer said.

Lawyers in the offices are handling cases for offenses ranging from an unauthorized absence to murder.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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