Wiretaps in Trombetta case weren’t illegal, prosecutors say

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When federal investigators recorded conversations between Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta and a quartet of attorneys, they didn’t violate lawyer-client privilege, prosecutors wrote in a 90-page court broadside unsealed Wednesday.

The brief by prosecutors at U.S. Attorney David Hickton’s office seeks to counter a motion filed by Mr. Trombetta's legal team in June in which the defense sought dismissal of the year-old indictment against him, or suppression of key evidence. Mr. Trombetta's defense lawyers wrote then that prosecutors wrongly recorded, through wiretaps and informants wearing devices, conversations between Mr. Trombetta and attorneys.

Prosecutors responded that the conversations in question involved attorneys who represented either PA Cyber or its subcontractors, not Mr. Trombetta personally. Some worked for the National Network for Digital Schools or Avanti Management Group, which Mr. Trombetta did not legally control during the periods discussed in the indictment, they wrote.

“Here is what actually occurred,” the prosecutors continued. “As the indictment makes clear, Trombetta was instrumental in the creation of NNDS and Avanti, while, at the time of the indictment, being careful to avoid any formal affiliation with those entities.

”Now he wants to take advantage of his 'shadow control' of those entities by claiming that attorneys for those entities did personal work for him.”

Mr. Trombetta's defense attorney declined to comment.

Mr. Trombetta, of East Liverpool, Ohio, faces charges of mail fraud, theft or bribery, tax conspiracy and filing a false tax return related to his involvement in entities that did business with PA Cyber. The case is before U.S. District Chief Judge Joy Flowers Conti.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter @richelord. First Published August 20, 2014 3:43 PM


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