SEATTLE – A federal prosecutor asked a judge to deny requests for changes in the custody of a Russian man charged with hacking into U.S. businesses, arguing his lawyers have illegally given him access to a cellphone and mail.
Roman Seleznev was indicted in 2011 on charges that he stole thousands of credit card numbers from businesses and restaurants across the U.S. He was arrested in Maldives in July and flown to Guam and then Seattle. Seleznev, the son of a prominent Russian lawmaker, has pleaded not guilty.
Seleznev’s lawyers have complained that his custody situation at the federal prison has kept them from meeting with him face-to-face, compromising his defence. A hearing on Seleznev’s custody situation is set for Tuesday.
But in a document filed Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Wilkinson says that besides finding a cellphone in the lawyer’s briefcase during a prison visit, a U.S. marshal caught a lawyer holding a cellphone up to the screen that separated Seleznev from his attorney in a courthouse cellblock so the inmate could speak to someone in Russian.
These events caused prison officials to tighten his interactions with his lawyers.
David Smith, with the Garvey Schubert Barer law firm, said no one in his firm “was involved in the alleged misconduct.” He said he always leaves his phone in the car when he goes to the prison. “I know what the rules are.”
Cellphones are considered contraband and a prisoner found with one would face discipline, special agent Christopher Siwulec said in a declaration attached to the filing.
Siwulec also said they intercepted mail disguised as a letter from his law firm that was actually a letter from another Russian prisoner.
Anna Goykhman, another Seleznev lawyer, said in an email Thursday that she did nothing wrong.
“I find such an accusation offensive to my professional reputation,” she said. “I will be responding with a detailed declaration later today.”
Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said they have not identified the lawyer in question, but “I expect future filings from various attorneys will make that clear.”