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Portage Mayor James Snyder and Attorney Thomas Kirsch II

Portage Mayor James Snyder, left, and attorney Thomas Kirsch II, U.S. attorney nominee.

HAMMOND — Portage Mayor James Snyder is claiming his Sixth Amendment rights have been violated in his federal corruption case.

The remedy, according to a motion filed Wednesday, would be to either disqualify the entire federal prosecution team or dismiss the indictment entirely. He is asking for an emergency status conference to determine the validity of the alleged improprieties and for the court to consider a remedy.

Department of Justice spokesman Ryan Holmes said department policy would not allow him to comment on pending litigation. Attorneys for Snyder did not immediately return requests for comment.

Snyder's defense team, headed up by Indianapolis-based Jackie M. Bennett Jr., is claiming federal prosecutors have unfairly gained access to a number of "privileged and confidential attorney-client communications" in the form of email accounts seized prior to his indictment.

The 9-page motion claims that when Snyder was represented by Thomas Kirsch II, now U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, a number of emails were seized from Snyder's city and private email accounts. Kirsch resigned as Snyder's attorney last fall when he was tapped as the new district attorney.

The motion claims those emails contained several confidential communications between Snyder and Kirsch. A practice known as a "taint team," made up of prosecutors and law enforcement agents, was put in place to screen the communications to protect Snyder's rights and determine which of the documents should not be viewed by the prosecution.

However, according to the motion, the taint review process failed and allowed the trial team, including federal investigative agents, to have free access to the communications regarding trial strategy between Snyder and his former attorney.

"This amounts to an 'intrusion into the defense camp' and a violation of Snyder's sixth amendment rights," according to the motion.

In addition, according to the motion, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster, who is listed as a lead prosecuting attorney on the case, allegedly acknowledged she and others had reviewed the documents and had taken a "narrow view" of what would be considered privileged.

This, according to the motion, allowed the government to "infiltrate the defense camp."

The defense raised the issue on Feb. 1 with the assistant U.S. attorneys, but no action has yet been determined, according to the filing, causing Snyder to seek the court's intervention. The motion also contends that with a final pretrial conference set for May 18 and trial on June 4, Snyder has not received all discovery previously promised by the federal prosecutors.

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Porter County reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for more than 38 years, including 23 years with The Times. She covers municipal and school government in Valparaiso and Portage.