NEW YORK, July 23 (Reuters) - A second-year law student has
accused the U.S. Marshals Service and Manhattan's top federal
prosecutor of helping illegally seize her phone after she began
writing letters to Judge Jed Rakoff during the criminal trial of
Benula Bensam, who is entering her third year at the
Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, said in a lawsuit that after
marshals became aware of her letters, they ordered court
security officers to keep her cell phone overnight.
"The U.S. Marshals are to be held responsible for actions
taken by court security officers for their role in the seizure
of my phone," the lawsuit said, accusing the officials of
"unreasonable search and seizure."
The lawsuit was filed on July 10 and made public on Monday.
It said that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, along with prosecutors
in the Gupta case, had "instigated the involvement of the U.S.
A spokeswoman for the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office
declined to comment on the lawsuit. A U.S. Marshals spokesman
did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Bensam, who is representing herself in the lawsuit, began
attending the Gupta trial as a law student "to understand the
process of litigation," according to her lawsuit. She did not
return a call seeking comment.
In the lawsuit, Bensam said that once the marshals had
learned about the letters, they told court security on June 4 to
keep her cell phone overnight.
Members of the public are not permitted to bring cell phones
into the U.S. District Court in Manhattan and must leave most
electronic devices with court security upon entering the
Bensam's phone was returned the next day, the lawsuit said,
but had likely been turned on and searched.
"It is not a crime for a disinterested party to write
letters to a judge on the subject of a trial," the lawsuit said.
Undeterred, Bensam attempted on June 6 to deliver a fourth
letter to judge Rakoff. The judge that day called her to the
bench and asked that she refrain from communicating with him
because it might seems as if she were trying to change the
outcome of the case.
Bensam's case has yet to be assigned to a judge. She is not
Gupta, a former Goldman Sachs board member, was convicted on
June 15 on four of six criminal insider trading counts.
The case is Benula Bensam v. Preetinder Singh Bharara et al,
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No.
(Reporting by Basil Katz)
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