David Vincent needs to show a judge legal reasons and supporting case law as to why he should not have to comply with a subpoena from the Franklin County district attorney.
MALONE – A Burke Town Council member has 10 days to give legal reasons why turning over wind-farm-project documents to a grand jury could violate his constitutional rights.
Acting Franklin County and St. Lawrence County Supreme Court Judge David Demerest told David Vincent on Tuesday he has until April 18 to explain in more detail, with supporting case law, why he should be excluded from turning certain information over to a grand-jury investigation.
But Demerest also instructed Vincent to have the paperwork in question ready for him to read in private if the final ruling does not go in Vincent’s favor.
Vincent, through attorney Brian Barrett of Lake Placid, is challenging a grand-jury subpoena from District Attorney Derek Champagne asking for “any and all” documents that could personally connect him to the Noble Chateaugay Windpark, Noble Energy, Jericho Rise Windpark and Burke Wind Power.
The grand jury wants to see all correspondence, contracts, receipts, leases, purchase agreements, options or communications from 2006, 2007 and 2008 that the councilman may have had with any representatives of the wind-farm projects being proposed in the towns of Chateaugay, Burke and Bellmont.
But Barrett argues that his client’s right to privacy, his right to avoid self-incrimination and his right to be protected from unlawful search and seizure would be violated if he were to turn over the requested material.
He characterized the DA’s subpoena as “a fishing expedition” and said Champagne is trying to get around obtaining a proper search warrant by issuing a subpoena instead.
Barrett said the grand-jury process is “cloaked in secrecy” and that the DA “has a wide latitude to tell the grand jury what he wants.”
That could mean some of the paperwork the DA seeks might disclose personal information about his client that has nothing to do with the investigation, Barrett said.
Chief Assistant District Attorney John Delehanty, who represents Champagne in the action, argued a grand jury has specific duties and functions and therefore its power is to be far-reaching and thorough in determining whether to seek a criminal indictment against someone or not.
He said the request for a subpoena “is presumptively appropriate” and should never be scrutinized or limited.
Delehanty said it is up to grand jury to decide if requested material has relevance it its investigation, not Vincent, and that it is his duty to respond to the order.
He said the subpoena challenge is frivolous, suggesting that Vincent be held in contempt of the order.
But Demerest said Vincent is not refusing to comply with request; he is exercising his right to refute the subpoena.
Therefore, there is no basis for contempt charges, he said.
Vincent has until April 18 to give the judge his legal reasons for not wanting to turn over documents, and Delehanty has until April 25 to respond.
The judge expects to make a decision before May 1, when the next group of grand jurors is impaneled.
By DENISE A. RAYMO
April 08, 2008
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