A federal judge has denied a defense motion to dismiss the drug case against deposed Panamanian Gen. Manuel Noriega, but he expressed concern over secretly taped telephone conversations that led to the request.
U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler, in his ruling Monday, said he did not feel there was sufficient cause to dismiss the case on grounds the government acquired access to taped prison phone calls Noriega made to his defense team.The tapes were leaked to the Cable News Network, which broadcast portions of them.
"I must say that I am concerned about the way access was obtained to those tapes," Hoeveler said.
However, Hoeveler said he would take the matter up again - during or before trial - if it appeared Noriega's constitutional rights had been violated by the incident. The trial is set for June 24.
The defense requested the dismissal after CNN began airing some of the taped conversations in November. CNN refused to divulge how the tapes had been acquired, but in testimony earlier this month prosecutors admitted they subpoenaed the tapes.
Lead defense lawyer Frank Rubino said an investigation by his office found the State Department had gotten the tapes from officials at Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Noriega is being held pending trial. He said a CNN reporter got the tapes from a high-ranking official in the Panamanian government.
Rubino acknowledged that Metropolitan Correctional Center had the right to make the audio tapes for security reasons but said the government may have violated attorney-client privileges by getting copies of potentially sensitive conversations about his strategy.