Federal Judge Rules Government Failed to Preserve Text Messages and Orders Adverse Inference Instruction in Criminal Case

On October 21, 2010, in the highly publicized New Jersey government corruption case U.S. v. Suarez, et ano., No. 09-932, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112097 (D.N.J.), the Honorable Jose L. Linares, U.S.D.J., held that the FBI had a duty to preserve Short Message Service electronic communications (i.e., text messages) exchanged between its agents and their cooperating witness, Solomon Dwek, during the course of the investigation of defendants Anthony Suarez (mayor of Ridgefield, NJ) and Vincent Tabbachino (former Guttenberg, NJ councilman and police officer). Despite the lack of evidence of bad faith on the part of the government, because the text messages were not preserved, the Court found clear prejudice to defendants and ordered that the appropriate sanction was a “permissive” adverse inference jury instruction.