Published in partnership with Shadowproof.
The United States Attorney’s office in the northern district of Texas issued another subpoena against journalist Barrett Brown. It was sent to Writers House, Barrett Brown’s literary agent who is working with him on his forthcoming book.
The subpoena, signed by U.S. Attorney John Parker, indicates the government believes the literary agent has “substantial nonexempt property belonging” to Brown, “including but not limited to any publishing advances, commissions, or royalties, and nonexempt disposable earnings.”
However, the U.S. Attorney’s office appears to be trying to inappropriately designate income as assets in the possession of Brown.
In a phone conversation with Emily Shutt, a member of the “restitution recovery team” for the U.S. Attorney’s office, Brown repeatedly asked Shutt, “How much have I not paid [in restitution] that I’m supposed to have paid?” Brown claimed his probation officer has no awareness of the claims the government is making about his failure to pay restitution or supposed debt the office allegedly attempted to collect in the past month.
Shutt would not provide Brown a direct answer to his question, even though it presumably is the basis for any subpoena. However, when Brown asked if the government can target all of his income for restitution payment, Shutt replied, “Not your income. Your assets.”
What the government is pursuing with the subpoena to Writers House is not money that Brown has been fully paid. He told Shadowproof he received a portion and paid restitution on that income, but until he delivers the next set of chapters for his book and fulfills certain parts of his contract, Writers House will not pay him the rest of this money.
On June 29, the U.S. Attorney’s office issued a subpoena to the media organization, The Intercept. The office requested all records of communications.
That particular subpoena sought information the Justice Department could have easily obtained without going to The Intercept in an act that implicated the press freedom of the organization.
“They have all of my prior communications with the Intercept because I was in prison during most of those; not all of them but the vast majority of them,” Brown previously told Shadowproof, adding, “those emails [were] monitored.”
Brown said he consulted with the Intercept’s “in-house counsel and what she did is she called the Attorney General’s office and said they’ve requested not just my financial information but all communications. She said we’re not giving you any communications. We’ll give you the payment information. And they accepted that because they knew they were full of shit, that they couldn’t demand communications.”
Although, during the phone conversation with Shutt, she insisted it was normal business and not unusual to go after person’s employers with subpoenas for all communications.
Brown was released from prison on November 29, 2016, after serving a prison sentence which stemmed from pleading guilty to threatening an FBI agent, obstructing justice, and being an accessory to a cyber attack. He spent two years in pretrial incarceration prior to his sentence in 2014.
Brown suggested the U.S. Attorney’s office is doing this to make it harder for him to live. “And, you know, they’re doing a pretty good job.”
Writers House is less experienced at handling a subpoena than the Intercept.
“That’s the irritating thing about this. They are harassing and making things difficult for people just for employing me and using language that does not apply,” Brown declared.
“My strategy in all this is to document as much as possible to make sure there’s no confusion, that whatever confusion they’re trying to bring to it gets clarified, and that I write to them and later on I can show that, no, they were not confused about this. They knew perfectly well this is true. I’ve made every effort to provide the actual status of these things, and they weren’t able to explain on the phone.”
Brown does not believe they are trying to send a message that he is not allowed to work in publishing but must get a more typical job that someone just out of prison might pursue, like a position at Subway. He does believe the U.S. Attorney’s office is looking at the court district and a favorable judge and wagering they can get away with this activity because the judge won’t stop them.
Sam Lindsay, who was nominated to the court in the northern district of Texas by President Bill Clinton, is a “fool,” Brown said. He lacks an awareness of what is happening in his courtroom when it comes to defendants.
Brown recalled attempts to explain issues or resolve disputes when his case was before Lindsay. His lawyer would submit something in writing or speak to him in a courtroom setting. “Forty minutes later, he’ll just repeat what he’s already said after we already thought there was no longer a dispute. It was very hard to deal with him because you never know how many times you need to explain to him what he should have already known.”
It may seem, to an outside observer, that Brown has a clear cut challenge against the U.S. Attorney’s office for violating or abusing the terms of the judgment. He is supposed to pay $890,375.00.
“If upon commencement of the term of supervised release any part of the restitution remains unpaid, the defendant shall make payments on such unpaid balance in installments of not less than 10 percent of the defendant’s gross income, or at a rate of not less than $50 per month, whichever is greater,” according to the terms.
“Payment shall begin no later than 60 days after the defendant’s release from confinement and shall continue each month thereafter until the balance is paid in full. In addition, at least 50 percent of the receipts received from gifts, tax returns, inheritances, bonuses, lawsuit awards, and any other receipt of money shall be paid toward the unpaid balance within 15 days of receipt.”
Is the government improperly categorizing money that Brown is likely to be paid?
“In theory, I’ve had all kinds of cases against [the government] for the last six years, but the problem is, in reality, it is better to be a prosecutor in this district than it is to be a defendant regardless of what a prosecutor has done. Even if you’re a prosecutor, who’s been caught kicking someone in the throat, it is better to be a prosecutor than the guy who’s kicked in the throat.”
Because, as Brown maintains, judges like Judge Sam Lindsay will simply forgive and forget the conduct of the U.S. Attorney’s office.