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Former Md. legislator seeks to have wiretaps thrown out in bribery case

Former Md. legislator seeks to have wiretaps thrown out in bribery case

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Former Delegate Michael Vaughn in 2016. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)
Former Delegate Michael Vaughn in 2016. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Attorneys for a former state delegate from Prince George’s County charged with accepting bribes are asking a federal judge to throw out recorded phone calls that are part of the case.

William Purpura, a Baltimore attorney representing former Del. Michael Vaughn, wrote in a filing that the wiretaps in question “were unlawfully intercepted, were based on insufficient probable cause, did not adhere to minimization guidelines, and did not result after the exhaustion of normal investigative procedures, and violated the Constitution.”

Vaughn resigned in January, citing health concerns. He was indicted by a federal grand jury two months later in connection with a bribery investigation involving Prince George’s County liquor licenses and the county’s liquor board.

In the 10-page motion, Purpura contends that 17 wiretap requests involving three different phones granted by Judge Paul W. Grimm between Feb. 22, 2013, and March 18, 2016, should be thrown out.

In addition to the deficiencies in the wiretap applications and constitutional concerns, Purpura argues, federal investigators were not entitled to the warrants because their investigation was going well and they had not exhausted other avenues.

“In the present case, all of the affidavits clearly demonstrate that the investigative techniques were flourishing,” Purpura wrote. “The confidential informants were providing detailed information, physical surveillance was successful, and the agents obtained corroboration of activities reported by confidential informants. Notably, one cooperating witness was wearing electronic devices that captured his conversations with Mr. Vaughn and co-conspirators. Numerous investigative tools were successful in providing information.”

“Here, if the officers had pursued and fleshed out the investigative tools they were already utilizing, they clearly could have continued to be successful in their investigation,” Purpura wrote.

The three numbers in the motion include one belonging to Vaughn as well as another associated with Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, D-Prince George’s and the Senate majority leader.

It is not clear if Peters was also a target of the investigation.

Calls to Purpura and Teresa Whalen, a Silver Spring attorney who is also representing Vaughn, were not returned.

Bruce Marcus, an attorney for Peters, said “it’s inappropriate for me to comment on pending litigation involving other cases.”

Prosecutors say Vaughn accepted more than $10,000 in cash bribes “influencing the performance of his official duties,” including voting for a bill to expand alcohol sales on Sundays. Vaughn conspired with a liquor regulation official and store owners “to enrich himself personally” between January 2015 through April 2016, according to a federal indictment.

Former Del. William Campos,  also a Prince George’s County Democrat, pleaded guilty in January to bribery and conspiracy in the case. Campos pleaded guilty to accepting $40,000 t0 $50,000 in bribes for directing more than $325,000 in government grants to individuals in return for payments during Campos’ time as a Prince George’s County councilman.

In April, Young Jung Paig, 61 of Capitol Heights, pleaded guilty to bribing officials in return for actions that would benefit his restaurant and liquor store.

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