Dead informant’s videos should be tossed in artifacts case, attorney argues
Hours of conversation secretly recorded by a now-dead federal informant should be disallowed as hearsay in the trial of an Orchard Mesa man charged in a multi-state artifacts theft investigation, an attorney argued in recent court filings.0
Denver attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca, who is representing 66-year-old Robert Knowlton, filed a motion on Friday asking U.S. District Court Judge Philip Brimmer to throw out video and audio recordings of two encounters between Knowlton and 52-year-old Ted Gardiner, a Salt Lake City artifacts dealer whose work on behalf of the FBI led to indictments against 26 people, including Knowlton.
If allowed, the evidence would potentially violate Knowlton’s right under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment, Pagliuca wrote.
“The Sixth Amendment guarantees to the accused the right, ‘to be confronted with the witnesses against him,” reads the filing.
Pagliuca’s motion to preclude the recordings comes as officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver have indicated they are still researching ways to use the recorded evidence at trial, despite Gardiner’s death.
Gardiner, who was paid regular monthly installments of $7,500 over roughly two years in the investigation of stolen relics from federal lands across the southwest, committed suicide on Feb. 28 after a brief confrontation with law enforcement in Salt Lake City.
Pagliuca’s said in the motion he expects prosecutors will try to get the videos admitted at trial by offering them as “context” for Knowlton’s alleged crimes, not “for the truth of the matter.” The defense suggests that’s a legal end-run around problems for the prosecution presented by Gardiner’s death.
“The length of the statements, the nature of the statements, and the method of presentation — video — will make any cautionary instruction to any jury meaningless resulting in confusion of the issues and prejudice to Mr. Knowlton,” reads the motion.
Jeff Dorschner, spokesman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, said prosecutors will be filing a response to the defense motion and declined further comment.
Knowlton was secretly recorded by Gardiner during meetings in July 2008 and November 2008, according to the filings. Gardiner shot the videos using a small camera hidden on his body.
“At times, no person is visible in the video,” the filing reads. “It is also obvious that material portions of the conversation were scripted in advance with law enforcement.”
The defense filing suggested Gardiner initiated conversations specifically aimed at obtaining statements of guilt, asking, “How did you come by that, Bob?”, and, “It’s a wonder the BLM archies pocketed it,” among other statements.
Knowlton was indicted last year on allegations that he sold three items, all artifacts that prosecutors allege were obtained illegally from federal lands, in July 2008 and then mailed them across state lines to Gardiner in Utah in violation of federal law.
Knowlton’s trial is scheduled to start July 6.