- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - Federal prosecutors are concerned that a binder containing sensitive court documents in a prison-gang case was found at a downtown Honolulu restaurant.

They said in a court filing Tuesday that defense attorney Marcus Sierra should have to explain how the binder ended up there. Sierra told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he doesn’t know if the binder is his or how it ended up at the restaurant.

Former Halawa Correctional Facility guard Feso Malufau was convicted last week of taking bribes from the “USO Family” prison gang to smuggle drugs to inmates. Inmate Tineimalo Adkins was found guilty of leading a brutal assault for the gang. Sierra represents Adkins.

There was testimony during the trial that gang members routinely use court documents to try to find out who’s snitching. Trial witness lists in the public record contained blacked-out names of the inmates who were testifying.

Prosecutors said in their motion that they learned Tuesday the binder was found at Alakea Delicatessen by an employee. The binder contained what’s believed to Adkins’ handwriting, the motion said.

The judge in the case ordered previously that attorneys for the defendants can show copies of witness material to their clients but can’t provide them with copies.

“The witnesses in this case testified to their genuine fear of retaliation from the USO Family,” said the motion by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Otake. “The fact that an attorney would even accidentally misplace such sensitive information regarding the witnesses in a public … location, needs to be addressed by the court.”

Sierra insisted he didn’t give any protected materials to anyone. “I don’t even know if this is my binder. If it is, I’ll admit to it. I’ll look into it,” he said. “But how it got to Alakea Delicatessen I have no clue because I didn’t give it to anybody.”

It has been months since he’s eaten there, he said. “This is all a mystery to me. I didn’t do anything wrong,” Sierra said.

Sierra questioned why Otake didn’t simply call him before filing her motion. She declined to comment on the motion.

If the binder fell into the wrong hands, it would have dangerous consequences, the motion said.

University of Hawaii criminal law Professor Kenneth Lawson said prosecutors have a valid concern.

“In some situations it can be life or death for those individuals whose names are on those pieces of paper,” he said.

Lawson added that gang members have operatives on the street - even employees in the court system or law enforcement - who run records and scour documents.

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Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at https://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .

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