A Mar-a-Lago technology worker employed by Donald Trump agreed to testify for the government in the former president’s classified documents case after he was offered a non-prosecution agreement, a defense lawyer asserted in a filing made public Wednesday.
The worker, identified in court papers as “Trump Employee 4” but reported by various media outlets as Yuscil Taveras, cut his deal after lawyers working for special counsel Jack Smith threatened to prosecute him, according to a filing by Washington, D.C., lawyer Stanley Woodward Jr., who represents Trump valet and co-defendant Waltine Nauta.
Woodward formerly represented Taveras before he retained a federal public defender in Washington, according to court papers. Taveras has not been charged with any crimes.
In court filings last month, the government declared that Taveras had changed lawyers and retracted previous testimony that he knew nothing about efforts by Trump and Nauta to interfere with the government’s investigation. But the Woodward filing represents the first public acknowledgement that Taveras is formally cooperating with prosecutors.
The indictment alleges that Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira told the IT director — identified in court papers as Trump Employee 4 — that “the boss” wanted surveillance footage deleted.
In his filing, Woodward declared that he “played no role” in the cooperation deal. He also asked U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over the case in Fort Pierce, to prevent Taveras from testifying in the case. The judge has set a trial date for May 20, 2024.
The case is one of four federal and state criminal prosecutions of Trump, who polls show holds a commanding lead over a thick pack of contenders for the Republican nomination in next year’s presidential election.
In July, federal prosecutors told the judge they were concerned that Woodward had a potential conflict of interest because he represented both Nauta, a Trump co-defendant, and Taveras, a would-be witness who could come under cross-examination at trial by Woodward.
The chief judge overseeing a federal grand jury in Washington offered to assign a federal public defender to Taveras, and he accepted.
Taveras ultimately testified before the Washington grand jury, providing new information that was included in a superseding indictment this summer. His testimony related to alleged efforts by Trump, Nauta and De Oliveira to delete footage from the estate’s surveillance system.
The government does not allege that the footage was actually deleted. But video is alleged to show Nauta moving boxes in and out of a Mar-a-Lago storage room, a piece of evidence that looms as a critical accusation in the indictment.
All three men, including De Oliveira, who was added as a co-defendant in the superseding indictment, have pleaded not guilty.
Trump was initially accused in the original 37-count indictment handed up in June of improperly retaining classified documents that he took with him after leaving the White House in 2021. He is also accused of obstructing the efforts of federal investigators to retrieve them. Nauta is accused of assisting Trump in the latter effort.
Woodward said in his filing posted Wednesday that the government improperly used a grand jury in Washington to collect additional evidence in the case, which is being tried in the Southern District of Florida. He reiterated that there has been no conflict of interest, and that the government has never shown that one exists.
“To be sure, the Special Counsel’s Office still does not allege that any actual conflict exists with respect to defense counsel’s representation of Mr. Nauta,” Woodward wrote. “It has not done so for the obvious fact that no conflict would arise unless and until Trump Employee 4 testified against Mr. Nauta. Should that time come, the Court can then assess whether a conflict arises from defense counsel’s cross-examination of Trump Employee 4.”
In the meantime, he suggested that prosecutors improperly used the Washington grand jury to buttress its case at trial.
“The approach taken by the Special Counsel’s Office — which unquestionably affected the presentation of evidence in the existing Southern District of Florida case — is a tactic inconsistent with precedent barring the use of a grand jury for trial purposes,” Woodward wrote.
“The Court should preclude Trump Employee 4 from testifying at a trial in this matter,” he added. “Should the Court not be prepared to so hold, Mr. Nauta respectfully requests the opportunity to brief the question as additional details concerning the Special Counsel’s Office utilization of a Grand Jury in a faraway District come to light.”
In the meantime, Woodward said, the court should conduct a closed hearing for the purpose of asking Nauta about “whether he has been fully advised of his rights as relates to this matter.”