Judge Dismisses Hearing in Classified Documents Case Over Conflicts of Interest Involving Co-Defendants’ Attorneys

  • Prosecutors in a classified documents case involving co-defendants Carlos De Oliveira and Walt Nauta were criticized by Judge Aileen Cannon for last-minute arguments and potential conflicts of interest involving defense attorneys.
  • The government argued for a ban on Nauta’s attorney, Stanley Woodward, from cross-examining a witness he previously represented, leading to a dispute in court.
  • Conflicts of interest were also raised regarding De Oliveira’s attorney, John Irving, who may have conflicts due to his representation of potential government witnesses in the case. Judge Cannon has yet to rule on De Oliveira’s waiver.

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In a classified documents case overseen by Judge Aileen Cannon, prosecutors were chastised before a hearing was dismissed due to potential conflicts of interest involving attorneys for co-defendants Carlos De Oliveira and Walt Nauta. Special counsel Jack Smith’s team had requested the hearings to determine if the attorneys had conflicts arising from their past and present representations of witnesses who may be called to testify. De Oliveira and Nauta, along with former President Donald Trump, pleaded not guilty to obstruction charges relating to the alleged deletion of Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage.

During the hearing, prosecutors argued for a ban on Nauta’s attorney, Stanley Woodward, from cross-examining a witness he previously represented. The prosecutors’ arguments in court were reportedly broader than what was stated in their court papers. Woodward pushed back on the government’s argument, claiming it was new. Judge Cannon criticized the prosecutors for their last-minute arguments and dismissed the hearing, accusing the special counsel’s team of wasting the court’s time. A potential conflict of interest involving witness Yuscil Taveras, referred to as “Trump Employee 4,” was at the center of the government’s argument, but Woodward is not currently representing him.

Prosecutor David Harbach argued that Woodward should be prevented from cross-examining Taveras, stating that Taveras changed his testimony to a grand jury after receiving a target letter, and Woodward stopped representing him. Woodward disagreed and stated that he couldn’t advise Nauta on conflicts of interest until he understood the full scope of the government’s concerns. Judge Cannon questioned the discrepancy between the prosecutors’ arguments in court and their previous court papers. The judge suggested that advising Nauta of potential conflicts was different from requesting a cross-examination ban.

In an earlier hearing, De Oliveira agreed to waive potential conflicts of interest and expressed satisfaction with his current attorney, John Irving. Irving may have conflicts due to his representation of potential government witnesses in the case. Judge Cannon questioned De Oliveira multiple times to ensure his understanding of the potential conflicts. While De Oliveira claimed to understand, he struggled to articulate them, citing a preference for speaking English over writing. Irving stated that the witnesses he previously represented had obtained separate counsel, and if they testify, another attorney, Donnie Murell, will cross-examine them. Judge Cannon has yet to rule on De Oliveira’s waiver.

During another hearing, Harbach informed the judge that Taveras had not waived his conflict of interest, unlike De Oliveira. Judge Cannon criticized the government for not raising the issue earlier, as it made it difficult to resolve the matter without a proper discussion. The government argued that they did not include the issue in their filing because it was not necessary for the Thursday hearing. Special counsel filings revealed concerns regarding Woodward’s potential cross-examination of his former client, citing the risks of improper use or disclosure of confidences and the possibility of pulling punches during cross-examination to protect confidences or advance personal interests. Woodward also represents other potential witnesses whose identities have not been disclosed.

Smith’s team also argued that conflicts may arise from Irving’s representation of De Oliveira due to his representation of others questioned by special counsel investigators. These clients include a former head of maintenance at Mar-a-Lago, a former receptionist and assistant to Trump, and a witness with information about the movement of boxes from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. The special counsel expressed concerns about Irving potentially cross-examining current clients.


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