House Lawyers Refuse to Turn Over Foley’s Computers

By Vic Walter And Krista Kjellman

Aug 23, 2007 4:04pm

Lawyers for the U.S. House of Representatives have denied Florida law enforcement officials access to former Congressman Mark Foley’s office computers. Investigators believe Foley may have used the machines to send illegal sexually explicit messages to former congressional pages. Instant messages reviewed by ABC News last October indicated the one-time Florida representative interrupted a House vote to engage in Internet sex with a high school student who had served as a congressional page and had been 18 for just six weeks at the time of the exchange.       The message, according to its time stamp, was dated April 2003, at approximately 7 p.m. — the same time the House was voting on H.R. 1559, Emergency War Time supplemental appropriations. THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Photos Foley Racing Into Trouble? Discretion Advised Read the Instant Messages That Forced Foley to Resign Full Blotter Coverage Mark Foley Internet Scandal Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. Maf54: I miss you
Teen:  ya me too
Maf54: we are still voting
Maf54: you miss me too The exchange continues in which Foley and the teen both appear to describe having orgasms in sexually explicit terms. Maf54: ok..i better go vote..did you know you would have this effect on me
Teen:  lol I guessed
Teen:  ya go vote…I don’t want to keep you from doing our job
Maf54: can I have a good kiss goodnight
Teen:  :-*
Teen:  <kiss> Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. But a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) spokesperson told ABC News that House lawyers denied the agency’s request to turn over the computers, citing the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution, which protects congressional papers. The House claims Foley’s computers are the equivalent of congressional papers, and that only Foley can waive his congressional privilege and grant access to them.  Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative anti-corruption watchdog group, said at the time of the FBI’s raid on Rep. William Jefferson’s Capitol Hill office, he was very opposed to then Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and current Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s, D-Calif., assertion that House offices cannot be searched. A federal appeals court ruled earlier this month that although the search of a congressional office is constitutional, the FBI violated the Speech and Debate Clause in searching Rep. Jefferson’s office because the agents gained access to all of the congressman’s records without giving him the chance to argue some of his records concerned legislative business. "There’s nothing that distinguishes a congressional office from any other office," Boehm said. "If you have something privileged, a letter from your attorney, investigators can’t take that letter." But the House’s refusal to turn over Foley’s computers appears to grant congressional offices special privileges — something Boehm says no longer exists.  "The type of all-purpose you-can-never-search-our-offices position is out," Boehm, who has advocated for a narrower interpretation of the Speech and Debate Clause, told ABC News.  FDLE spokesperson Kristen Perezluha said the department has moved on and is currently working with Foley’s attorney and the FBI to gain access to the computers. Even without access to Foley’s government computers, Perezluha says her department is "hoping to wrap up its investigation in seven to 10 days," at which time it will be up to the state attorney in Pensacola, Fla., to press charges. Unlike federal law, the Florida statute makes it a crime simply to use lewd or explicit language that is harmful to minors.  Foley resigned Sept. 29, 2006, hours after ABC News questioned him about sexually explicit messages with former congressional pages, some of whom were under the age of 18 at the time of the exchanges. Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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