Trump

President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order on health care in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Evan Vucci

A local private investigator accused of trying to illegally obtain then-presidential candidate Donald Trump's unreleased tax returns should be barred from arguing to a jury that he did so for ethical reasons, federal prosecutors contend.

Jordan Hamlett, 32, of Baton Rouge, is scheduled to stand trial Dec. 4 on a federal charge of misrepresenting his Social Security number in a failed attempt to access Trump's tax returns before last year's presidential election.

In June, Senior U.S. District Judge James Brady refused to throw out statements Hamlett made last October to federal agents in the hacking probe. Prosecutors say he admitted his crime to federal law enforcement authorities.

In recently filed court documents, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Rezaei said Hamlett's attorney has since indicated that one of the defenses his client is interested in presenting at trial is a so-called "white hat" defense.

In such a defense, Rezaei explained, a person claims to have committed a crime for supposedly ethical reasons. The prosecutor, however, called that defense "essentially nothing more than a belated excuse for a crime."

Rezaei argued that such an excuse or self-justification for the crime is irrelevant to the elements of the charge offense that prosecutors must prove, and would only confuse the jury.

"Worse, ... by putting on a white hat defense, the defendant is essentially asking the jury to ignore the evidence which establishes the elements of the charged offense, including his admission that he committed the crime, and base their decision on the defendant's warped view of his crime," he wrote.

Rezaei is asking Brady to prohibit Hamlett from presenting any evidence or argument regarding a "white hat" defense.

Hamlett's attorney, Michael Fiser, could not be reached for comment.

Prosecutors say Hamlett attempted to access Trump's tax returns in September 2016 through an online student financial aid tool.

Fiser has said previously that special agents of the FBI and U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration tricked Hamlett into meeting them at the Embassy Suites in Baton Rouge last October by posing as potential clients of his in a domestic investigation.

A transcript of testimony at a March federal court hearing shows agents did not know at the time of the Oct. 27 interrogation if Hamlett had succeeded in obtaining Trump's tax returns, and they feared a public release of the financial documents could influence the presidential election that was less than two weeks away.

Prosecutors have said in other court documents that Hamlett "sounded proud of what he had done."

Hamlett, who has pleaded not guilty, faces up to five years in federal prison if convicted.

Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.