4-11-2001 Three nationally renowned legal ethicists yesterday said that Richard Rose, the lead prosecutor in the federal Operation Plunder Dome investigation, clearly violated rules of confidentiality in showing an FBI undercover tape to two friends and his sister last summer at his house. In a letter to the court and defense lawyers Monday, prosecutor Richard Rose disclosed that he had shown part of a secret FBI tape to his sister and others. Here are various legal opinions regarding Rose's conduct.
Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr., a University of Pennsylvania professor who drafted a handbook on the Model Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers, says that Rose's conduct was so egregious that "it's certainly a ground for firing him" and "it may be considered obstruction of justice." Hazard said that in his view, Rose should be taken off the Plunder Dome cases and perhaps even be stripped of his job. "He's going to be done for in the U.S. Attorney's office, very possibly. It's a very serious offense that would justify his being fired and of course his being taken off the case," Hazard said. Hazard said that taking the secret tapes home "is an infraction," and is "probably against the local rules or the rules anywhere in the country. But to show it is just stupefying. Hell, he should have shut the damn thing down" when his friends came by. "It's just nuts," Hazard said. "A lawyer has a duty to maintain confidentiality of information relating to the representation of a client. His client here is the United States."
And Bruce A. Green, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches
legal ethics at Fordham University School of Law, says that Rose
should be disciplined for his lapse of judgment. Green, the
Fordham law professor, is a former assistant U.S. Attorney for the
Southern District of New York. He called Rose's conduct "clearly
improper. It shows colossally poor judgment. It's contrary to
everything prosecutors are told about the importance of the
confidentiality of ongoing undercover investigations."
"It had the risk of compromising the investigation" and "violated
the duty of confidentiality that the prosecutor owed to the
government," Green said. But Green said that he thinks "the likely
result" will be "some sanction on the prosecutor either imposed by
the Department of Justice or some other disciplinary
authority." The Department of Justice has an office -- the
Office of Professional Responsibility -- "that has a responsibility
to investigate alleged misconduct by federal prosecutors," Green
pointed out. "I would assume it will get notice of what happened
here [and] that he would be punished internally in some way . . .
You can't just ignore it," Green said.
But despite Rose's infraction, Green said that he does not believe that Rose should now step down from prosecuting the case against Cianci and his co-defendants. "Prosecutors make mistakes and do things wrong but it doesn't always follow that that would prevent them from conducting a trial fairly and effectively."
Hazard and Green also called what Rose had done "a serious violation," as did a third legal ethics professor, Roger C. Cramton, of Cornell University School of Law. Cramton, the Cornell law professor, said "it might be wise" for Rose to step down from prosecuting the rest of the Plunder Dome cases "and let another prosecutor take over." "You're not supposed to reveal confidential evidence to others, including family members, even close family relatives. It's clearly a violation of the rules of professional confidentiality," Cramton said.
But Thomas Connell, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Margaret E. Curran, said yesterday, "The U.S. Attorney has complete confidence in his [Rose's] abilities to carry the case forward" and that "absolutely," he would remain in charge of prosecuting Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. and five others indicted on racketeering and other corruption charges. US Attorney Margaret Curran also said she was standing by Rose.