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Secretive court proceedings delay hearing in Stephen Snyder extortion case

Attorneys representing suspended Maryland medical malpractice attorney Stephen L. Snyder says prosecutors have put together a “fraudulent” case in bringing attempted extortion charges against him. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Medical malpractice lawyer Stephen L. Snyder was supposed to appear in federal court last week to argue for the dismissal of his indictment on extortion charges.

Instead, U.S. District Judge George L. Russell canceled the hearing — and referenced a secretive appeal that had previously been unknown to the public.

Details of the appeal are still hidden, but the disclosure is notable in such a high-profile case. Legal experts who reviewed the scant information that is publicly available agreed the proceedings appear unusual.

Neither defense lawyers nor prosecutors would comment on the filing in which Russell identified the appeal.

“I can’t comment,” said Arnold Weiner, who is lead counsel for Snyder. A spokesperson for the government also declined to answer questions.

In Russell’s order canceling last week’s hearing, the judge wrote that the parties “should file a status report within ninety days of this order indicating the status of the appellate proceedings relating to Crim. Action No. SAG-21-556.”

A case filed under that docket number in Baltimore is sealed, according to a search of the federal judiciary’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records system, or PACER.

Though the docket cannot be opened in PACER, a search does show that the case has gone before two different judges: Thomas M. DiGirolamo, a magistrate judge based in the Greenbelt division of Maryland’s federal courts, and U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher. The judges are identified by their initials in PACER.

The notations suggest the dispute that put Snyder’s motion to dismiss on hold originated before DiGirolamo, the magistrate judge, and was later appealed, putting the issue before Gallagher.

The fact that the entire docket remains under seal is unusual and could signal that the dispute is related to grand jury proceedings or a search warrant.

It is not clear whether the issue is connected to Snyder’s case or another case. Either way, the fact that Snyder’s motion to dismiss was put on hold while the sealed case proceeds suggests the outcome could have significance for his effort to throw out the indictment.

Snyder’s criminal case is consequential on many levels: The 2020 indictment leveled serious charges against one of Baltimore’s best-known medical malpractice attorneys and involves claims that Snyder threatened to embarrass the University of Maryland Medical System if it didn’t offer him a $25 million consulting deal.

Federal prosecutors claim the consulting deal was a sham and that Snyder did not intend to do any work for the money; instead, he was attempting to extort UMMS with claims that its flagship hospital’s transplant program had made dangerous mistakes.

UMMS officials reached out to federal authorities after Snyder made the ask in 2018 and ultimately recorded a meeting at which Snyder explained the deal and said he would be “conflicted out” of future lawsuits against UMMS if the system paid him.

“I don’t care if I don’t do anything (for the money),” Snyder said, according to the indictment.

Last month, Russell denied Snyder’s request for additional discovery and largely rejected the defense’s argument that the government acted improperly when it investigated Snyder. The hearing did not bode well for Snyder’s motion to dismiss the indictment, which made similar claims.

At that hearing, Russell also alluded to another secretive issue still pending in the case: a sealed motion to disqualify Weiner as Snyder’s lawyer. Other details of that request still remain unknown.

The federal allegations are similar to ethical claims that Maryland Bar Counsel Lydia E. Lawless previously brought against Snyder. The ethics proceedings against Snyder have been stayed, and he agreed to the suspension of his law license pending resolution of the criminal and ethical allegations.

One comment

  1. Well written. Clearly there is more to know, but this reporter laid out the complicated facts very well. Appreciate this reporting.