The U.S. Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to an effective defense, something a suspected Russian hacker and lawmaker's son, Roman Seleznev, has been deprived of due to inadequate access to his lawyers, the American judge presiding over his case said Tuesday.
Seleznev — son of Valery Seleznev, who represents the nationalist party LDPR in Russia's lower house of parliament — has been limited to speaking with his lawyers through a glass wall.
Finding this restriction on communication incompatible with Seleznev's constitutional rights, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Donohue ordered the defense and the prosecution in the case to come up with a plan that allows both sides to do their jobs while respecting the prison's security concerns.
Seleznev, was arrested in the Maldives in July. He was moved to Guam and then Seattle, Washington on charges that he hacked into businesses across the U.S. and installed software that allowed him to steal credit card numbers. He has pleaded not guilty.
Seleznev's lawyers had complained that officials at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center would not let them meet face to face with their client, impeding their ability to provide a defense. Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Wilkinson said security concerns for Seleznev increased after two missteps involving his lawyers and cellphones.
In one instance, one of his previous lawyers was seen holding a phone up to Seleznev while he was in a courthouse holding cell. Another time his lawyer carried a phone into the prison by mistake.
Wilkinson said Seleznev must stay in a room separate from his attorneys and talk through a glass wall. They can pass documents by handing them to a guard in an envelope, he said.