A month after Donald Trump falsely accused his predecessor of illegally wiretapping his phones, a smaller, quieter drama in Brooklyn federal court showed what happens when those allegations have merit.
On Monday, a former Brooklyn assistant district attorney tearfully pleaded guilty to charges of illegally intercepting communications of her ex-boyfriend and a colleague.
Tara Lenich admitted her guilt in court and left red-faced, without talking to reporters.
“I knew that conduct was illegal and I just want to say,” she said as she broke down in tears, “I’m so sorry for my conduct and [to] any people that might have been affected.”
Lenich had tapped the phone of Jarrett Lemieux, a detective whom she had dated, and a fellow prosecutor at the Kings County DA’s office named Stephanie Rosenfeld-Vais. Lenich allegedly believed the two were romantically involved. Lemieux was reassigned after allegedly threatening Lenich, though his union denied wrongdoing to the New York Post.
“Our detective is purely a victim in this situation and is not accused of any misconduct,” Detectives Endowment Association President Michael Palladino told the Post. “So I expect a quick restoration to full duty once the department expeditiously concludes some precautionary steps.”
Lenich’s charging papers read like a rom-com gone rogue.
Lenich began forging judicial orders authorizing the wiretapping of certain cellphones in mid-2015. To do so, Lenich took scissors to paper and physically cut out judges’ signatures from real orders, only to tape them to the fraudulent ones she was intent on getting. When the 30-day wiretap ran out, she’d submit more forged paperwork to extend it again, for two cellphones, according to a criminal complaint.
She submitted seven cut-and-paste judicial orders for one phone and 17 for another.
Lenich lied to colleagues, telling them the intercepts were “part of a confidential law enforcement investigation that she was conducting, and instructed them not to listen to, read, or otherwise review the communications transmitted,” according to the complaint.
Sentencing guidelines suggest that Lenich serve between eight and 14 months for the two counts of illegal wiretaps. But her attorneys say that the sentence can also be assigned to house arrest, or a halfway house.
“We take comfort in knowing the judge will consider Ms. Lenich’s otherwise exemplary professional and personal life when she’s sentenced,” her attorney, Morris J. Fodemam, told reporters. “From the beginning, Ms. Lenich has wanted to fully accept responsibility for her actions in this case and wanted to plead guilty at the first opportunity.”