Judge rejects DOJ plan for contractors to create database for Capitol riot prosecutions

Judge rejects DOJ plan for contractors to create database for Capitol riot prosecutions
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A federal judge on Friday denied a request from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to share grand jury materials from investigations into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot with a contractor who was hired to organize them into a database. 

The DOJ had revealed in a court filing last week that it had planned on paying Deloitte Financial Advisory Services $6.1 million to create a sweeping database organizing videos, photos, emails and other evidence federal authorities have acquired in their ongoing probe involving more than 500 individuals who have been charged in connection with the mob attack. 

However, Beryl Howell, the chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said in a 54-page memorandum opinion that the DOJ was incorrect in arguing that employees of Deloitte contracted to work on the project could be considered “government personnel," which would grant them access to the grand jury evidence. 

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“Deloitte, a private firm contracted by the government on a non-exclusive basis, is a private rather than a public governmental entity, and its staff are employees of the firm rather than the government,” the judge wrote. 

Thus, Howell argued that the secrecy provisions pertaining to grand jury rules do “not allow disclosure of grand jury matters to Deloitte and its employees.” 

“Further, the government has not made a sufficient showing of particularized need to warrant disclosure,” she continued, adding, “Disclosure to Deloitte is therefore prohibited, and the government’s motion to authorize disclosure based on one or the other of these exceptions must be denied.”

The DOJ had argued that the creation of a database would be particularly beneficial for prosecutors to meet their obligations to give defendants relevant evidence for their cases, including access to all evidence obtained from the Jan. 6 riot. 

The Hill has reached out to the DOJ for comment on Friday’s ruling. 

On Monday, Politico reported that the DOJ was planning to share reports of alleged police misconduct during the Jan. 6 riot with defense attorneys, who had requested information regarding allegations that some law enforcement officers may have been “complicit in the January 6 Capitol Breach.” 

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Democrats have raised questions on whether police were complicit in the violence at the Capitol building, during which multiple people died and dozens of others suffered mild to severe injuries. 

One video from the riot reportedly showed some officers moving barricades so rioters could break through, and at least one officer was allegedly captured taking a selfie with a riot participant. 

Politico said that federal authorities have gathered evidence related to more than 6,000 grand jury subpoenas, thousands of hours of security footage and millions of social media posts, along with other data.