A second-year law student, Benula Bensam, entering her third year at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law has filed a lawsuit against U.S. Marshals Service and Preet Varrara, Manhattan’s to federal prosecutor, for seizing her phone illegally. The matter was made public on Monday though the lawsuit had been filed on July 10. A judge has not yet been assigned to the matter. The law student accuses Preet Varrara of instigating involvement of the U.S. Marshals leading to the illegal seizure of her cell phone.
According to court rules, members of the public are not allowed to bring cell phones into the U.S. District Court in Manhattan and need to leave their electronic devices with the security when entering the building.
The event happened after Benula Bensam, the law student, started writing letters to Judge Rakoff in the high-profile Goldman Sachs insider case of Rajat Gupta. Bensam claims she was attending the Gupta trial as a law student “to understand the process of litigation,” but to understand things better she began writing letters to the judge.
When the fact of the law student trying to communicate with the judge in the high-profile matter came to notice of the marshals, according to the complaint of Bensam, the marshals told court security to seize her cell-phone and keep it overnight. The lawsuit mentioned that Bensam’s phone had been returned the next day, but there was a probability that it had been turned on and searched.
Undeterred by the event of having her cell phone seized overnight on June 4, the law student tried on June 6to deliver a fourth letter to judge Rakoff. On that day, the judge called her before the bench and asked her to refrain from communicating with him, because it might seem as if she were trying to influence the outcome of the case.
However, Bensam maintains that the U.S. Marshal’s Service illegally seized her phone, and “The U.S. Marshals are to be held responsible for actions taken by court security officers for their role in the seizure of my phone.” The lawsuit accused concerned officers of “unreasonable search and seizure.” It also claimed “It is not a crime for a disinterested party to write letters to a judge on the subject of a trial.”