Paul Phua’s legal team of David Chesnoff and company may have played its trump card this week, as the judge presiding over the case has dismissed yet another round of the FBI’s evidence against the high roller.
But to understand the recent ruling by US District Judge Andrew Gordon, it’s important to look at how
Phua was arrested back in July 2014.
Acting on information that Phua was allegedly running an illegal sports betting operation during World Cup last summer from within the property of Caesars Palace Las Vegas, the FBI concocted a plan to infiltrate Phua’s luxury villas, gather evidence, and make a series of arrests.
In order to gain entry to the room, agents tampered with the computers in Phua’s villas and then posed as computer technicians for the hotel. Using this as their cover, the agents surveyed the rooms and gathered evidence before making a series of arrests.
Claiming this was a breach of privacy and Phua’s Fourth Amendment rights a US citizen, the poker player’s legal team, consisting of David Chesnoff, Thomas Goldstein, and Richard Schonfeld, then used that as the basis of their case in an effort to get the evidence, and hopefully the entire case, dismissed.
In April of this year, Judge Gordon agreed with Phua’s attorneys and ruled that the FBI’s tactics were unlawful and violated Phua’s privacy. This fact, coupled with the ruling that FBI had misrepresented the facts in order to obtain a warrant against Phua, was enough for Gordon to consider dismissing the evidence obtained from the raids.
On Tuesday of this week, the two sides were once again in court and, this time, the judge further agreed that more evidence had been obtained illegally and, therefore, must be discounted. Following up on this, Phua’s legal team also argued that without this evidence the FBI would have nothing to back up its allegations.
Despite trying to counter this argument by suggesting the government was going to try for warrants against Phua in any case, the FBI was unable to present anything concrete to back up this contention and persuade Gordon not to dismiss the evidence.
Calling the FBI’s handling of the case “fast and loose,” Gordon was left with no choice but to rule in favor of Phua on this matter. That result now means that the FBI may be forced to drop its case against Phua; prosecutors have until noon on Friday, May 29 to decide whether to move forward, withdraw, ask for a reconsideration by Gordon, or press on to a higher court for an overrule.
At present, Phua is set to stand trial on June 15. However, without any substantial evidence to back up its claims, it’s unlikely the FBI will be able to secure a conviction. Only if prosecutors can convince Gordon to reconsider his verdict (which at this point seems highly unlikely), or win its possible next move via the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, may they still have a case.