By Zachary Stieber
A U.S. judge has agreed to allow the FBI to delay production of records on late Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer Seth Rich.
U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant, an Obama appointee, granted on Oct. 18 the government’s request, which U.S. lawyers said was unopposed.
Mazzant had ordered in September the FBI to produce information from Rich’s laptop computer to Texas resident Brian Huddleston, who sued the bureau after he said it failed to respond properly to Freedom of Information Act requests.
The FBI previously claimed it didn’t have records regarding Rich, but during the case acknowledged it had taken possession of Rich’s laptop.
FBI officials argued that Rich’s family has a privacy interest that outweighs the public interest in the information from Rich’s computer but Mazzant rejected the arguments, noting that the FBI cited no case law.
He ordered the FBI to produce the information within 14 days.
But the FBI through Department of Justice lawyers asked for a two-week stay, saying it was preparing a motion for reconsideration/clarification “because the FBI is uncertain how to comply with the Court’s order as written, and the FBI is seeking input from a pending appellate consultation regarding the order to properly address this issue.”
The stay would allow the FBI sufficient time to complete its legal consultations and prepare and file the motion, according to Brit Featherston, a U.S. attorney who filed the motion. “This motion for stay is not made for purposes of delay, but so that justice may be served,” Featherston said.
Ty Clevenger, representing Huddleston, did not oppose the motion, according to the government.
Clevenger did not return a request for comment.
Mazzant granted the motion.
“Before the Court is Defendant FBI’s Unopposed Motion To Stay Court’s Production Order. The Court, having considered the Motion, finds the motion should be granted,” he wrote.
The production order was stayed until Oct. 28.
If the FBI wants a further delay, the government must file a fresh motion.
Rich was killed in 2016 in Washington. Authorities have alleged the killing was a robbery gone wrong. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has suggested Rich provided WikiLeaks information. Special counsel Robert Mueller said that suggestion was “apparently designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing,” including emails to and from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
The actual source was Russian hackers, according to Mueller’s report, though the report conflicts with statements from CrowdStrike, the firm hired to investigate the leak or hack of the emails.