The man accused of orchestrating a bombing campaign on a romantic rival’s Rotterdam home earlier this year is asking a judge to throw out important evidence, claiming investigators illegally obtained it without a warrant.
Specifically, Mark Gaylord, attorney for Larry Ahrens, is asking a judge to throw out text messages allegedly sent by Ahrens in the midst of the plot and evidence obtained through a later eavesdropping warrant, saying the warrant wasn’t supported by probable cause.
The prosecutor in the case, John Healy, though, has countered in his own written response that any allegations of police misconduct are baseless and that Ahrens has no reasonable expectation of privacy related to text messages, records in possession of a phone company.
Ahrens, 33, of Rotterdam, and two others were named in a 49-count indictment handed up in June, accused in a plot that has been described as Ahrens’ attempt to instill fear in a romantic rival.
In a motion expected to be ruled upon soon, Gaylord alleges “serious misconduct of law enforcement personnel” and “blatantly illegal eavesdropping.”
Gaylord alleges that between March 11 and March 25, police violated Ahrens’ constitutional right to privacy by intercepting his text messages without judicial authority.
“Law enforcement’s action cannot be justified by any good-faith exception to the warrant requirement,” Gaylord wrote. “There was NO warrant.”
He said a claim that they were acting upon an order from the telephone company “defies credibility as any competent law enforcement official would know that a warrant is required…”
Gaylord then argues that a later eavesdropping warrant to intercept audio phone communications was based in part on the illegal seizure of Ahrens’ text messages.
Gaylord asks the judge to dismiss the indictment in its entirety in the interests of justice.
The prosecution, in its response, though, argues that text messages are not protected confidential communication.
“Simply stated,” Healy wrote, “the defendant has no reasonable expectation of privacy of records in the possession of the phone company.”
Claims that police conducted warrantless eavesdropping are “factually and legally incorrect,” Healy wrote.
The text message records were obtained, Healy wrote, though a records request, not through a wiretap. The records request, submitted by a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, was followed up by a subpoena issued by a federal grand jury, Healy wrote.
They were also obtained well after they were sent and received, Healy noted. Related to the text messages themselves, Healy said courts have previously held they are akin to letters and emails, with the expectation of privacy ending after the message is received.
Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago is expected to rule on the motion soon. She could rule in favor of either side, or could call for a hearing to explore the issues further.
The text messages and wiretaps are important in the case as authorities have said they were helpful in identifying those involved, even before the two alleged bombers were allegedly caught in the act in April.
Named along with Ahrens in the indictment are the two alleged bombers, Amy Brzoza and Michael Chambers. Brzoza and Chambers are accused of carrying out Ahrens’ plot to terrorize the resident.
Ahrens is accused of paying Chambers and Brzoza to wage a nearly two-month campaign of violence on the new boyfriend’s East Claremont Avenue home, authorities said.
No one was injured in the attacks, but the presence of the victim inside the home — and the inherent danger the devices posed — elevated the charges to top-level felonies, carrying potential life sentences.
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