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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 19, 2015

Defense Attorneys Held In Contempt For Violating Protective Order

Following a hearing before United States Magistrate Judge Timothy R. Rice, the Honorable Juan R. Sanchez today held attorneys J. Michael Farrell and Stephen P. Patrizio in civil contempt of court for providing discovery disks to their clients, contrary to a protective order entered by Judge Sanchez in United States v. Whitfield, Parnell, et al., Criminal No. 12-418, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. Attorneys Farrell and Patrizio, and the government, agreed in writing to the contempt sanctions which the Court then imposed after considering the terms of the agreement.

 

In the case of United States v. Whitfield, Parnell, et al., Mr. Farrell was retained to represent Robert Lamar Whitfield, and Mr. Patrizio was appointed to represent Kenneth Parnell. Defendants Whitfield and Parnell were charged with conspiracy, robbery, and cocaine distribution offenses. The discovery in the case included videos taken by an undercover agent, which disclosed the identities of both the undercover agent and a confidential informant. To protect those identities, the government filed a request for, and the Court granted, a protective order, prohibiting counsel from duplicating the discovery or providing copies to defendants who were in custody awaiting trial. Contrary to the terms of the protective order, attorneys Farrell and Patrizio provided multiple disks of discovery to their clients, including the disks containing the videos recorded by the undercover officer. Ultimately, one of those videos was provided by one of their clients to a Philadelphia television news station, and was played during a television news broadcast.

 

The attorneys have asserted that this dissemination was inadvertent and not done with willful intent to violate the Court’s protective order. Nonetheless, they have taken full responsibility for having violated the Court’s order. For disclosing this discovery in violation of the Court’s protective order, attorneys Farrell and Patrizio were found in civil contempt of court and ordered to pay $5,000 each. This sum serves both as a penalty for the attorneys’ violation and to induce compliance with the Court’s protective orders in the future.

 

The United States Attorney’s Office recognizes its obligation to protect victims, agents, and witnesses while providing discovery to defendants and their counsel. To honor these obligations, this office will continue to seek protective orders that limit disseminating discovery materials, and will pursue appropriate sanctions against those individuals, including attorneys, who violate protective orders.

 

This matter was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlene Fisk.

Updated February 4, 2016