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Feds Seize Barrett Brown’s Legal Defense Fund

First the feds charge Barrett Brown with crimes that, if he’s found guilty, could keep him in jail for 100 years. They deny him bail, which means he’ll have been behind bars for a year before he gets a trial in September. They go after his mom for obstruction. And now they’re taking his money. When the feds learned that his legal defense fund has raised $20,000, they said, “Yep, we’ll take that. Before the end of the month, if you please.” I guess this is the way it works. If, say, someone donated $1 million to Barrett’s legal defense, it wouldn’t make sense that Barrett would be allowed to use a public defender (which he is). But come on. Doesn’t it feel like the government is just running up the score now?

  • Uppercase Matt

    That doesn’t look like the feds seized anything. It looks like the court is basically taking it in escrow to be sure that it’s used for his legal defense (and will determine if and how much he’s required to contribute to the costs of his appointed counsel). It also looks like the court is concerned that someone else may have access to the account and may simply take the money.

    This isn’t a JWP-type federal forfeiture thing — this is just the court making sure that the money that Brown says is available for a legal defense actually stays available for his legal defense.

  • guest012

    Not entirely correct, this order stipulates that it goes to pay the court-appointed attorney, which inhibits him from hiring private defense counsel.

  • Uppercase Matt

    No, the order is clear that the court has not yet decided whether Brown has to contribute to the costs of his court-appointed attorney at all. I suppose you could say that, as long as the court controls access to the money, Brown can’t use it to hire a private attorney without court approval, but the court hasn’t said that it can’t be used for private counsel.

    Realistically, though, $20K is a drop in the bucket on what a private attorney would cost for all that he’s charged with. Unless he raises a lot more than that, he’ll be using appointed counsel, that you and I are paying for. So I have no problem with the court saying that his legal-defense fund should be used to reduce the cost to the taxpayer-supported legal defense. And I wouldn’t think it reasonable for him to have both a court-appointed attorney and a “bonus” private attorney for as far as the $20k gets him.

  • guest012

    But word on the street is the fund is held by a completely independent non-profit org. with its own bank account. Brown himself doesn’t have ownership or control of the funds, so this is overreach.

  • John

    $20,000 isn’t going to get a private criminal defense lawyer to even sniff this file — he’d need to add at least one more zero (maybe two). As I read the order, it simply provides that the funds contributed for “legal defense” actually get used for that purpose.

  • Jose

    Others have been falsely using his name to steal money: perhaps this is why.