Campaign Dirty Trick Backfires

9th Circuit CourthouseIn the range of dirty campaign tricks this ranks right up there with the worst.  Tan Nguyen, a failed Republican congressional candidate in Orange County, was convicted in 2010 of lying about what he knew of a mailing to non-Republican immigrant voters threatening that if they voted then their personal information would be given to anti-immigration groups.

A federal appeals court refused to suppress a search of Nguyen’s home and campaign office, which lead to the federal charge of obstruction of justice.  The appeals court action let stand Nguyen’s obstruction conviction Friday.

Nguyen argued the investigators lacked probable cause to search his home and computers because the mailing of the letter was not a violation of any law.  He had asked that the evidence obtained in the search be suppressed, but the trial judge refused and he was convicted.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that there was a “fair probability” that the distribution of the campaign letter constituted an act of voter intimidation under California law and was sufficient basis for the search warrant.

The letter target immigrant voters with threats that their personal information would go to anti-immigrant groups if they exercised their right to vote, according to the court.

Nguyen was running against Loretta Sanchez, the Democratic incumbent, and a Latina with strong support in the Hispanic community.

In 2006, a mass mailing of 14,000 letters on behalf of “Mark Lam” went to new voters with Hispanic surnames, born outside the United States and who were registered Democrats or declined to state a party affiliation.

The letters were written in Spanish.

During an interview with the state Attorney General’s office in 2006, Nguyen admitted some limited knowledge of the letter prior to its mailing, but said he believe it was created and distributed by an acquaintance.

But investigators searched his home and campaign headquarters and the investigation linked him to the campaign letter.

The state did not press charges, but a year later, after Nguyen lost his bid to unseat Sanchez, a federal investigation was opened.

Although no charges of violation of federal election law were brought, Nguyen was charged with obstruction of justice for failure to disclose to state agents the extent of his knowledge of the creation and mailing of the flier.

The appeals court upheld Judge David O. Carter’s decision approving the searches.

Case:  U.S. v. Nguyen, CR11-50061




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