Defense Challenges Whether John Liu’s Aide Withheld Evidence
NEW YORK—The smaller charges against comptroller John Liu’s former treasurer were brought up during trial on Friday and Monday in Manhattan’s Southern District federal courthouse.
Jia “Jenny” Hou is being charged with lying to an FBI agent and withholding evidence. She is also being charged alongside Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan, one of Liu’s fundraisers, for using straw donors to illegally obtain public matching funds for Liu’s 2013 mayoral campaign.
The FBI had obtained search warrants for Hou’s email and chats, and later sent a subpoena to Liu’s campaign offices for documents from the same accounts, as well as from other forms of communications that could be relevant to the case.
Hou was charged for withholding documents that could be crucial to the case—a charge based on Hou providing fewer documents to the FBI than what the FBI had already obtained itself.
Hou’s attorneys questioned the FBI’s reasoning for requesting information from the Liu campaign when they had already obtained Hou’s email and chat logs.
On April 26, Donald Chu, one of the FBI case agents on the Liu investigation, said information requested by the FBI went beyond what they obtained through the search warrant to include any additional email addresses used by Hou, as well as written documents and notes.
Chu said investigators needed “email correspondence between contributors, intermediaries, and people with the campaign,” as it included people the FBI was interested in speaking with, and because it contained names of intermediaries the FBI was looking into.
When the FBI brought Hou in for questioning on February 27, 2012, the agency was still in the process of searching through her email and chat logs.
“The statements Hou was making seemed untrue,” Chu said, and this prompted the FBI to reexamine her emails. When Hou was questioned, she requested several breaks to speak with her attorney, according to Chu.
The FBI agent in charge of sifting through Hou’s emails, Ryan Carey, took the stand after Chu, and was questioned through the morning of April 29 when court resumed after the weekend.
Carey said he reviewed all 19,523 documents obtained through the search warrant for Hou’s Gmail and Google chat logs. The FBI seized 1,900 of those documents.
One of Hou’s lawyers, Sheryl Reich, accused Carey of making errors about the documents Hou provided, and did not provide, to the FBI.
“That’s why I double checked it,” said Carey, referring to a document showing the emails and chats that were received or missing from Hou. He added, “I was not prepared to swear oath until I reviewed this document.”
Reich referenced several documents which the FBI originally listed as missing, but were later found to have been provided by Hou.
When Carey was questioned by prosecutors, he said the errors were corrected in time for the trial, and that all the changes were reflected in the document used in court.
Prosecutors then displayed the document to the courtroom, showing a checklist of numerous documents not provided by Hou that prosecutors say were crucial to the investigation.