A Baton Rouge federal judge refused Wednesday to throw out a local private investigator's statements last fall to federal agents in a hacking probe involving then-presidential candidate Donald Trump's unreleased tax returns.
Jordan Hamlett, 31, of Baton Rouge, had argued the agents failed to advise him of his Miranda rights — specifically the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present — and that his statements to the agents at the Embassy Suites were not freely given.
Senior U.S. District Judge James Brady, following a hearing on the matter in March and the filing of written post-hearing arguments, sided with federal prosecutors.
"The agents were not required to Mirandize the Defendant because he was not in custody, and all of his statements were voluntary," Brady wrote Wednesday.
Hamlett has pleaded not guilty to a federal charge of misrepresenting his Social Security number in a failed attempt to obtain Trump's tax returns through an online student financial aid tool. He faces up to five years in federal prison if convicted.
"We are disappointed in the ruling but respect Judge Brady's decision and are eager to move forward with our defense," Hamlett's attorney, Michael Fiser, said.
Acting U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson declined comment on the ruling.
Brady said Hamlett volunteered to the federal agents on Oct. 27, less than two weeks before the presidential election, that he tried to access Trump's tax returns in September.
"He volunteered this information relatively quickly. The agents had not even accused the Defendant of any wrongdoing yet," the judge stated.
Brady said Hamlett agreed to take part in a second interview Oct. 31 and sent agents two unsolicited emails after that interview, explaining in more detail why he was trying to obtain Trump's tax returns.
The judge described the agents' first conversation with Hamlett in a large, busy and open area of the hotel as "cooperative, conversational, and friendly" and said Hamlett was neither handcuffed nor physically blocked from leaving. The judge acknowledged one of the agents did accompany Hamlett on a smoking break in the parking lot and when Hamlett went to his car to get his cellphone charger.
Brady, however, said Hamlett had been a private investigator for nearly a decade, was familiar with law enforcement tactics and "admitted that he knew he could have left the interview if he wanted to."
"The Defendant chose to speak with the agents. He chose to sit down with the agents in the lobby instead of going to the hotel room. He chose to take various breaks, and returned to speak with the agents after his break," the judge said.
"The officers were courteous, did not use any physical restraints, and did not make any threats."
In a court filing over the weekend, Fiser claimed the agents tricked Hamlett into meeting them at the Embassy Suites by posing as potential clients. Fiser called the Oct. 27 interview an interrogation and said it was not some "friendly Kumbaya campfire singalong."