Prosecutors in the classified documents case against former President Donald Trump asked a federal judge Wednesday to hold a hearing to determine whether the lawyer for former presidential aide Waltine Nauta has a conflict of interest.
The reason: He represented other people who could be called as government witnesses.
One of those individuals is reportedly Yuscil Taveras, a technology director dubbed “Employee 4” in the superseding indictment handed up last month. Taveras, who has not been charged in the case, was allegedly asked how to delete video footage of documents being moved at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.
Stanley Woodward Jr., a Washington, D.C., attorney who represents Nauta, saw no conflicts in representing multiple people, according to the government’s request for what is known as a Garcia hearing.
Such a hearing is designed to ensure that a defendant who is represented by an attorney who also represents others in a case understands the risks of the potential for a conflict of interest.
Woodward, the government noted, “has represented at least seven other individuals who have been questioned in connection with the investigation.”
“The Government has advised Mr. Woodward of its intent to file this motion requesting a Garcia hearing and its reasons for doing so,” prosecutors said.
They added that Woodward indicated “as a general matter he does not oppose the court informing his client of the client’s rights.” But he wants the opportunity to respond. As of late Wednesday, no response from Woodward had been filed with the court.
The prosecutors also said they advised lawyers for Trump and recently indicted Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira of their intent to file the hearing request with U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over the case, which is set for trial on May 20, 2024.
Those lawyers, the government said, “have indicated that they take no position” on the request.
One lawyer, multiple clients
Prosecutors wrote that they informed Woodward in February and March that his “concurrent representation” of Taveras and Nauta “raised a potential conflict of interest.” They said they informed Woodward that they believed Taveras had information that “would incriminate Nauta.”
But Woodward, according to prosecutors, said he was “unaware” of any incriminating testimony Taveras could give that would affect Nauta. Woodward then advised both men of the government’s position about a possible conflict.
“According to Mr. Woodward, he did not have reason to believe his concurrent representation … raised a conflict of interest,” the government said.
Nonetheless, Taveras hired a new lawyer on July 5, the government said.
Richard Serafini, a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney who formerly worked for the Justice Department, said the government’s bid for a hearing is an effort “to protect their potential conviction.”
At some point in the case, he suggested, a Woodward client could end up being questioned by his own lawyer when it is not in the client’s best interest.
“Quite simply you cannot cross-examine a witness that you represent, you simply can’t,” Serafini said.