Feds seek secrecy order on Fumo evidence

Federal prosecutors are ready to hand over to defense attorneys the huge cache of evidence they have gathered in their probe of state Sen. Vince Fumo and three of his associates.

But they want a federal judge to order that all of the evidence be kept private.

Fumo, his former deputy chief of staff, Ruth Arnao, and two ex-Senate computer aides were indicted by a federal grand jury in February on conspiracy, fraud, tax and obstruction charges. All have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors said in court papers filed yesterday that some of the materials they want kept private relate to "uncharged criminal conduct" by people other than the defendants in the case.

In December, U.S. District Senior Judge William H. Yohn Jr. issued a "temporary protective order" to keep private some documents in the case, which then involved the computer aides, Leonard Luchko and Mark Eister.

They were charged last June with destroying e-mails and other electronic evidence in order to thwart the FBI probe of Fumo.

That order covered grand-jury transcripts, FBI summaries of witness interviews and three search-warrant applications, including Fumo's Tasker Street district office and Luchko's Collingdale home.

All of that evidence - 983 pages of FBI interview reports and 6,900 pages of grand-jury testimony - was made available yesterday to all defense attorneys in the Fumo case, the government said.

But investigators have gathered much more evidence, and prosecutors must turn all of it over to defense attorneys by April 9.

That evidence includes more than 200 boxes of documents and other unspecified materials produced in response to grand-jury subpoenas and the contents of 53 computers, servers and other data-storage devices.

Prosecutors said yesterday they were not prepared to hand over any of it until Yohn ruled on their request for an "umbrella" protective order.

The feds said such a blanket order was needed because if the evidence were leaked to reporters, witnesses who may never be charged could be embarrassed or an ongoing grand-jury investigation could be compromised.

The Daily News and Inquirer intervened in the case last September and opposed any protective order.

At that time, the newspapers said the public's right to know outweighed any privacy interests in shielding the materials. *