DEDHAM, Mass. (Court TV) — At a motions hearing on Thursday, Karen Read‘s attorney revealed that a federal investigation into the police handling of his client’s case is ongoing.
Read is accused of murdering her boyfriend, Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe, whose body was found in the snow outside of a fellow Boston officer’s home in Canton, Mass. Prosecutors have said Read hit O’Keefe with her car and left him to die in the snow. But Read’s defense team has said she never hurt O’Keefe and that she is being framed by the true killers, who may have been inside the house where the body was found.
Read’s attorneys argued for the public release of several letters between the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts and the United States Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility. The state has asked for the letters to remain sealed and out of public view. The state denied a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents filed by a Boston TV station, citing “privileged attorney work product”, “confidential personnel information” and connections to an “ongoing criminal investigation.”
Karen Read and her attorney, David Yannetti, appeared via Zoom for Thursday’s hearing, while the prosecutors and several rows of Read supporters filled the Dedham courtroom. Before arguments began, the Judge revealed that she had not been given copies of the letters and took time to review them before hearing from Yannett.
While the full contents of the letters were not disclosed at the hearing, Yannetti said that their contents had prompted Read’s defense to file a motion to sanction the District Attorney’s office as well as ask for the office to be disqualified from prosecuting the case.
“It is clear from those letters that District Attorney Morrissey is well aware he’s a target of a federal investigation as a result of his conduct in this case,” Yanetti said.
Yannetti said that on Wednesday the prosecution and defense were on a conference call with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which confirmed “not only has there been a federal investigation in this case, but it is ongoing. … That means that District Attorney Morrissey and his office are targets of a federal investigation.”
While the judge reserved ruling immediately on whether the letters could be released to the public, Read’s attorney warned that they would find their way into the record eventually during a future hearing on their motion to sanction the prosecution. The judge set a hearing date for those motions on Feb. 15.
“We have the eight letters. We’ve seen them. … The genie cannot be put back in the bottle. These letters are powerful evidence that we will use to publicly support our motion for sanctions.”
In a statement to Court TV following the hearing, the Office of the Norfolk County DA Michael Morrissey said, “No part of the communication with the Office of the United States Attorney yesterday, or at any point, has indicated that the Norfolk County District Attorney or any member of this office is the target of the federal investigation. Mr. Yannetti misrepresented that completely.”
Read’s attorneys last battled over evidence at a motions hearing on Jan. 5, but the judge was unwilling to hear arguments about the letters without giving the federal agencies who authored them the opportunity to weigh in about their potential release.
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The judge also heard arguments over access to reporter notes and recordings made by reporter Gretchen Voss during her interview with Read for her article in Boston Magazine, “The Karen Read Case in Canton: The Killing that Tore a Town Apart.” An attorney representing the publication said that Voss not opposed to the release of the interviews, but felt that her handwritten notes should be treated as privileged. Massachusetts does not have a shield law that protects journalists from having to share their work product or source information.
The attorney for Boston Magazine said that Voss had been the victim of harassment and threats in the wake of the article, and that she should not be further involved in the case for her protection and also because she is not an eyewitness with any information material to the case.
Prosecutors have separately filed motions requesting access to raw footage of Read’s interviews with NBC News and ABC News as well.
The judge said she had concerns for the reporter’s safety and said she would decide on the issue in two weeks.