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Mon Jul 27, 2020, 01:21 AM

Seoul Judge Cancels Lee Dong-jae Search Warrant

A central district Seoul judge upon application by the attorney for Lee Dong-jae, the now jailed former reporter for the ultra-conservative Channel A News, has canceled the search warrants by which his hand phones and notebook were obtained by investigators.

Lee Dong-jae is a prime suspect in the so called press-prosecution collusion scandal. Lee is under investigation for attempting to coerce Lee Chol, currently jailed for financial crimes related to his investment business, into incriminating political pundit and former cabinet minister Yoo Shi-min with false evidence. Senior prosecutor Han Dong-hun is suspected of conspiring with Lee Dong-jae to do this. Han Dong-hun is allegedly close to the Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol. The judge's ruling effectively withdraws the evidence, including forensic evidence of audio files of conversations between Han and Lee, and the incriminating "timeline" and transcripts associated with them from consideration in the case. The decision by Judge Kim Chan-hyun was made the same day the Prosecutors' Committee to Consider Investigative Evidence recommended against investigation of Han Dong-hun and for a no indictment disposition. The latter recommendation has no procedural weight according to the Ministry of Justice and is regarded as a public relations effort by the Prosecutor General's Office to influence the media and public opinion. The Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office is conducting an independent investigation and the Ministry of Justice ordered the Prosecutor General to desist from interference.

The judge stated that the procedure followed to execute the warrant issued last April to the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's investigative team was defective, failing to provide sufficient notice to Lee Dong-hae, of the contents of the warrant, the items to be seized and the circumstances surrounding the seizure. According to UPI Korea, there was an attempt to serve the warrant at the homes of two reporters and at the office of Channel A News, April 28. The phones were not surrendered at that time due to resistance by the reporters. Then later on May 18, a representative from Channel A News surrendered Lee's two hand phones and notebook at a Seoul Hotel to investigators. On May 22, Lee personally visited the Seoul Central District Office to participate in the forensic investigation of which he alleged he had not been informed. At that time he filed his application for judicial review regarding the warrant.*

*법원 "영장 표지만 보여준 檢채널A 기자 압수수색 위법" 주영민 2020-07-27 08:59:44

There are various criticisms of the decision vacating the warrant. One is that the phone wasn't in possession of Lee Dong-hae, but was in the custody of Channel A News, and was surrendered by a representative of Channel A News. Channel A News had the phone in their custody after the dispute arose. Lee is claiming a "legal right" to notice of the warrant contents at the time of execution. One report suggested Lee had a right to participate in the forensic evaluation of the evidence which was violated by the nature of the warrant execution. Ironically, another judge had ruled recently that Lee Dong-jae be confined pending the investigation because he was a threat to the collection of evidence. The UPI report says an application by Lee Dong-jae for return of the evidence and withdrawal of any forensic evidence was submitted on July 27 but not yet accepted for review.

Comments on South Korean social media by journalists and pundits have criticized the decision which obstructs the investigation as a practical matter. An attorney for the investigation team, observing an appropriate professional demeanor, tactfully said they would examine the "grounds and reasoning" of the decision and consider filing an appeal. The seized items have not yet been returned to Lee Dong-jae pending a decision by the investigating team whether to proceed with an interim appeal on the illegality of the warrant execution. Whatever happens the stall tactics and the media circus conducted by the conservative media and Prosecutor General's Office continue. Prosecutor Han Dong-hun has a guaranteed podium in the Chosun Ilbo, where he ludicrously portrays himself as "martyr." One pundit noticed the similarity to Hwang Kyo-ahn's rhetoric during his theatrical hunger strike. The whole objective of the press prosecution scheme to frame Yoo Shi-min, a spokesperson for the legacy of No Mu-hyun and the popular democratic reform elements in South Korea was to negatively affect the April 15 general election in favor of the Mi Tong Dang conservatives. The same was true of the prosecution against former Justice Minister Cho Guk. The South Korean public perceived these schemes for what they were, and the conservatives went down to a historic electoral defeat. The conservative mainstream media and public prosecutors' offices are, in effect, conducting a Custer like last stand until they can get to the next general election.

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