A federal magistrate judge has ruled that lawyers for an indicted road contractor can have a tape of a conversation between the prosecution's star witness and federal investigators.
However, lawyers for Leonard Lawson, former Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert and Brian Billings, a Lawson employee, must keep the recording between former transportation employee James Rummage and investigators under seal.
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The judge has not yet ruled whether a jury will hear that recording.
Prosecutors had inadvertently given defense lawyers a copy of a conversation between Rummage and prosecutors earlier this fall. Prosecutors filed a motion asking that the recording be returned.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Todd ruled that defense lawyers could keep the recording but it must remain under seal. Then defense lawyers learned of additional recordings that Rummage had made on his personal cell phone.
Prosecutors had turned over all but one of those conversations, including a second conversation Rummage had inadvertently recorded between himself and investigators.
Todd, in his ruling, said defendants are entitled to the recording, but whether the recordings would be admissible at trial would have to be decided later.
Lawson, Nighbert and Billings were indicted on charges relating to the tampering of $130 million in road contracts during former Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration. All three have pleaded not guilty.
Rummage, an engineer, has said that Lawson paid him $20,000 in cash for internal cabinet estimates on road projects that Lawson's companies were set to bid on. Rummage, who was working for federal investigators, secretly recorded conversations between himself, Lawson and others.
Also Thursday, prosecutors filed a motion saying that they intended to go back to a federal grand jury to amend the criminal charges against Nighbert and Lawson. Defense lawyers had argued that some of the charges against their clients should be tossed because they weren't appropriately charged.
Prosecutors, in court documents filed Thursday, argued that the charges the men faced were appropriate but prosecutors may go back to a federal grand jury to amend the charge. That change would not result in additional charges but would relate more to the prosecution's theory of the case. Trial has been set for April.