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Jonathan Luna and the FOIA request
Jonathan Luna

Jonathan Luna and the FOIA request

As I was searching through federal court filings last week, I noticed a request to unseal a 13-year-old document filed by prosecutors.

“The reason for which the United States originally sought to have these documents sealed no longer exists and the documents can and should be unsealed,” Assistant U.S. Attorney P. Michael Cunningham wrote.

The motion was filed July 29 and granted the same day.

The now-unsealed document is below. At the very top, it says the filing is an application for “historical records of electronic communications.” What stopped me in my tracks was the name in the third line of the application, the same name signed on the last page:

Jonathan P. Luna.

Luna was an assistant U.S. attorney whose body was found in December 2003, face-down in a creek in central Pennsylvania with 36 stab wounds. The local coroner’s office ruled Luna’s death a homicide, but the FBI has said Luna was alone the night of his death. The investigation remains open.

Further down in the application was the name of the person whose cell phone records prosecutors wanted: Nacoe Ray Brown. Back in the summer of 2001, Brown had just been indicted on a string of bank robberies and attempted bank robberies from a few months earlier.

Brown was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2002. His trial was notable for the fact that $36,000 in cash used as evidence in the trial disappeared. According to a Baltimore Sun story from less than a week after Luna’s death:

The sources cautioned that nothing links Luna, 38, to the missing cash, or the money to his slaying. But the case stands out among Luna’s files, all of which were being closely examined as authorities continued to search for suspects in Thursday’s killing.

The money went missing “in transit between the courtroom and a government storage area,” The Sun reported. Luna signed an agreement with other lawyers in Brown’s case that all exhibits had been property returned, according to The Sun, which also quoted a “law enforcement source” saying Luna had about $25,000 in credit card debt at the time of his death.

With some context on the application for phone records, I had one question: Why did prosecutors unseal it after 13 years?

Marcia L. Murphy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore, said it was done in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. She did not know who requested the information because all FOIA requests for the office are handled by the Department of Justice.

Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the department, said Friday officials there would not tell me who requested the application. He cited an exemption in FOIA that allows federal officials to withhold “information involving personal privacy.”

In other words, I’ll need to file a FOIA request to see who filed a FOIA request to see an application for cell phone records filed by Jonathan Luna.

I’ll keep you posted.

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Nacoe Ray Brown Application (PDF)

Nacoe Ray Brown Application (Text)

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