Crime

Leavenworth detainees reach $1.45M settlement over recorded attorney phone calls

Legal battle over taped phone calls at Leavenworth prison continues

A legal battle continues in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., over allegations that federal prosecutors wrongly used recorded phone calls of attorneys talking to their clients held at Leavenworth Detention Center.
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A legal battle continues in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., over allegations that federal prosecutors wrongly used recorded phone calls of attorneys talking to their clients held at Leavenworth Detention Center.

The operator and telephone provider of a private prison in Leavenworth have agreed to settle a lawsuit with detainees who alleged phone calls with their attorneys were illegally recorded.

Leavenworth Detention Center’s operator, CoreCivic, and its phone provider, Securus Technologies, agreed to pay $1.45 million into a fund that would be distributed among more than 500 current and former detainees, according to court documents.

As part of the proposed agreement, which is subject to court approval, some of the detainees could receive up to $10,000. About a third of the settlement fund would go to the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Any unclaimed funds would be donated to Kansas Legal Services, records show.

In the lawsuit filed in 2017, former detainees Ashley Huff and Gregory Rapp claimed their confidential communications with their attorneys were intercepted and used by the defendants without their consent.

The lawsuit sought $5 million or more in damages for alleged violations of wiretap laws.

If the agreement is approved, CoreCivic would pay $1.1 million and Securus would fund $350,000, according to court records.

Bob Horn, a Kansas City attorney who represented the plaintiffs, told KCUR, which first reported on the agreement, that the settlement was “significant” for the detainees.

CoreCivic and Securus denied the allegations of wrongdoing alleged in the lawsuit. In an email, CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist said the settlement “should not be interpreted as an admission of wrongdoing or liability.”

The settlement agreement came about a week after a federal judge held the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas in contempt of court for its pattern of misrepresentations and lack of cooperation during an investigation into the scandal.

Conversations between clients and their attorneys are confidential in nearly all aspects. But in her order, U.S. District Court of Kansas Judge Julie Robinson said federal prosecutors in Kansas determined on their own that they could access recordings of these discussions, tainting several criminal cases along the way.

At least three criminal defendants in Kansas have had their sentences vacated or their indictments dismissed as a result of the scandal. More than 100 others have filed petitions for similar relief.

The scandal came to light in 2016 during the prosecution of inmates suspected of trafficking drugs within the prison’s walls.

The prison is operated under contract for the U.S. Marshals Service by CoreCivic Inc. — formerly known as Corrections Corp. of America. Many of the people held there are defendants awaiting trial and have not yet been convicted.

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Luke Nozicka covers local crime and federal courts for The Kansas City Star. Before joining The Star, he covered breaking news and courts for The Des Moines Register.
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