WASHINGTON (CN) - A convicted mobster may win access to records on the FBI's investigation of him, a federal judge ruled, poking holes in the agency's justifications for denying the request.
Anthony Sciacca has been serving a 23-year sentence since 2001 after pleading guilty in Brooklyn, N.Y., to violating federal anti-racketeering law.
He submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act to the bureau in 2006 and claimed in a federal complaint two years later that the FBI mishandled it.
The FBI subsequently produced 281 pages out of the 365 it reviewed, citing FOIA exemptions for those that it withheld.
U.S. District Judge Ketanji Jackson refused Thursday to grant the FBI, the Justice Department and its Office of Information and Privacy summary judgment.
"This court concludes that defendants have fallen short of their duty to provide adequate information regarding the redactions and withholdings, and that, without more information, this court cannot evaluate whether defendants have properly employed the various exemptions pursuant to which defendants redacted and withheld the documents in question," he wrote.
The FBI and the Department of Justice failed to provide adequate support as to why it segregated records, according to the ruling, and the bureau failed to provide a detailed description of the documents produced and the information withheld.
There is no evidence, however, that the FBI acted in bad faith, the court found.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola's recommendation that the court deny the bureau summary judgment factored heavily into the decision.
Finding the FBI failed "to submit a sufficiently detailed affidavit, declaration, or Vaughn
index in support of its contention that they have satisfied their FOIA obligations," Judge Jackson ordered it to produce sufficient reasoning for withholding the records. Vaughn v. Rosen
was a 1973 case
the D.C. Circuit denied claims that requested FOIA documents were subject to exemption. "A Vaughn Index must: (1) identify each document withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption," according to court records.
Sciacca, now 41, belonged to the Giannini crew, a group of gangsters working on a freelance basis for New York's Mafia families.
He admitted in court to two murders and burning the bodies to hide the evidence. He also admitted to being involved in kidnappings, murder conspiracy and attempted murder.