The offices of Mayor Catherine Pugh’s attorneys were not part of a multi-location search warrant execution Thursday but rather complied with a limited subpoena for financial records in their possession related to their representation.
The documents had previously been sequestered from other client files and agents were directed to a separate area with the relevant documents, according to a news release from Steven D. Silverman, managing partner of Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White LLC in Baltimore.
“There was no ‘raid’ of the firm as reported in the media, and the agents did not conduct a search of the firm,” Silverman said in the release. “The agents also did not seek or obtain any attorney-client privileged communications with the Mayor, or any other information or documents from the firm or its clients. The agents were polite and courteous, and the process was conducted in an expeditious and professional manner.”
Dave Fitz, an FBI spokesman in the agency’s Baltimore office, said agents with the FBI and the IRS criminal division in Washington were “executing court-authorized search warrants” at “both residences and City Hall” and “at other places, too.” Fitz could not be reached Thursday afternoon to confirm Silverman’s statement.
Outside of Pugh’s Ellamont Road home Thursday, Silverman told reporters the documents were related to the mayor’s “Healthy Holly” children’s books. Agents told Silverman the firm was “not the target,” Silverman said.
“There were questions raised publicly about Healthy Holly LLC. As her attorneys, we conducted an investigation into those records,” Silverman said. “We had possession of those records that came from her accountant, from the mayor. We were reviewing those documents. Those documents were in the exact condition in which we received them. We kept those documents in a separate cabinet, a locked cabinet, and understood at some point these original documents would be relevant if an investigation were to be opened and we gave the documents when they were requested.”
Searching an attorney’s office would be unusual, a lawyer familiar with federal investigations said Thursday, adding that a subpoena is the more common way for investigators to obtain documents from an attorney.
The U.S. Department of Justice manual for prosecutors dictates procedures for searching an attorney’s office, including encouraging the “least intrusive approach” to obtain evidence, such as a subpoena.
Attorney Bruce L. Marcus, a Greenbelt criminal defense attorney who represents clients in state and federal court, said the actions of investigators in serving a subpoena indicate the firm has been aboveboard.
“It tells you that the government did not believe that there was any cause of concern over the representation of the lawyers or their conduct in representing their client, and in fact what it suggests is that they were following a protocol to ensure that the information would be obtained by the government in response to what was presumably … a lawful request by investigators,” he said. “Nothing untoward should be drawn from the fact that a request for documents was served on the law firm for a very limited universe of information.”
The firm’s decision to sequester documents also protects privileged information for other clients, said Marcus, partner at MarcusBonsib LLC.
“When you start mucking around with lawyers’ files, then the issue becomes fraught with peril,” he said. “It goes right to the heart of the criminal justice system and the role of the attorney.”
The FBI serves subpoenas all the time on organizations and individuals, a process that normally does not garner much attention, Marcus said. The fact that high-profile search warrant executions were happening throughout Baltimore on Thursday drew attention to FBI activity at the law firm, he noted.
A spokeswoman for the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment Thursday on the warrants and subpoenas.
Daily Record business reporter Tim Curtis contributed to this report.