Crime & Courts

Phone-calls case frees woman from Kansas prison

Legal battle over taped phone calls at Leavenworth prison continues

A legal battle continues in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., over allegations that federal prosecutors wrongly used recorded phone calls of attorneys talking to their clients held at Leavenworth Detention Center.
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A legal battle continues in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., over allegations that federal prosecutors wrongly used recorded phone calls of attorneys talking to their clients held at Leavenworth Detention Center.

A federal judge in Kansas City, Kan., has ordered a woman’s early release from prison after learning that a former prosecutor listened to phone calls between the woman and her lawyer.

Because of that possible violation of her constitutional rights, Michelle Reulet was released Monday from the federal prison where she was serving a 5-year sentence. She was not scheduled to be released until September 2020.

The revelation of the former prosecutor’s actions came earlier this month during a court hearing concerning the recording and dissemination of attorney-client phone calls at the privately-run Leavenworth Detention Center.

Testimony that the former prosecutor who handled Reulet’s case had listened to the calls prompted her attorneys and the U.S. attorney’s office to jointly ask that she be re-sentenced to time served and released.

“The facts revealed during the hearings were not previously known to the leadership of the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a written statement released Monday. “In light of those facts, and given the relatively short time remaining on Ms. Reulet’s sentence,we believed the best choice to serve the ends of justice was not to oppose the public defender’s motion to amend Ms. Reulet’s sentence to time served.”

Reulet, 37, a Texas resident, was prosecuted in Kansas on drug, money laundering and mail fraud charges. She pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced in May 2017 to the five-year prison term.

The recorded conversations with her attorney occurred while she was held at the Leavenworth facility run by CoreCivic, formerly called the Corrections Corporation of America.

She is one of potentially dozens of defendants whose cases could be affected by the court case now pending before a federal judge in Kansas City, Kan.

Defense attorneys allege that prosecutors engaged in a widespread practice of obtaining recordings of attorney-client phone calls in violation of their clients’ constitutional rights.

Federal prosecutors dispute that contention, with the exception of what they call a few isolated instances such as what happened in Reulet’s case.

Litigation over the recordings has been going on for years. In 2017, a federal prosecutor left the U.S. attorney’s office after admitting that she also had listened to recordings of attorney-client phone calls.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson heard nearly two weeks of testimony this month and has scheduled an additional hearing in November.

Robert Storch, deputy inspector general for the U.S. Dept. of Justice, explains the audit of the Leavenworth Detention Center. Ian Cummings/The Kansas City Star

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