Sunday, January 20, 2008

Colorado ICE Agent Accused Of Misusing NCIC Database

According to several newspaper articles, including one by Sara Burnett of the Rocky Mountain News titled "Inquiry has ICE agent in 'shock,'" published January 15, 2008, ICE agent Cory Voorhis is accused of illegally accessing the FBI database known as the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) database and providing information to help Republican Bob Beauprez's gubernatorial campaign against Democrat Bill Ritter.

Remember, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, so there is a criminal prosecution against Mr. Voorhis for three misdemeanors (exceeding authorized access to government computers), which has a maximum penalty of three years in prison or a $300,000 fine. But that does not mean Mr. Voorhis is guilty because he is presumed innocent until there is a finding of guilt, which has not happened -- the criminal case is ongoing.

The NCIC database has been heavily criticized for having inaccurate information and for containing information that is independent from criminal charges and convictions. Putting that aside, this news story raises another issue with the NCIC database -- illegal access to it by ICE agents for unauthorized purposes.

According to the news article, the Republican candidate's campaign wanted to attack the Democratic candidate for being soft on crime, particularly for giving certain plea bargains to defendants that the Republicans thought were undocumented immigrants. But to make that attack, the Republicans needed confirmation the particular defendants were undocumented immigrants. In the criminal case, Mr. Voorhis made a suppression motion and as part of that said he contacted the Republican campaign to tell them "what to look for" and then later got a request to look up eight people. Mr. Voorhis testified that he refused to look up whether the eight people committed other crimes but did offer to look up whether they were undocumented immigrants.

Mr. Voorhis is in shock that he is being prosecuted for what he did and believes that he only shared a limited amount of information that was public information.

Although Mr. Voorhis is presumed innocent until proven guilty, this case raises an important question about illegal conduct by ICE agents to violate people's Constitutional rights. If that conduct is widespread -- an issue being litigated around the country -- then the Supreme Court has indicated that the courts may conclude that the exclusionary rule should apply in immigration court to suppress all illegally obtained evidence. This broader issue is part of numerous cases around the country, including a pending case with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Update (April 2008): a jury found Mr. Voorhis not guilty of the two misdemeanors that he was charged with, arising from accessing the confidential NCIC database allegedly to help a 2006 political campaign. When a jury rules that someone is not guilty, it does not have to explain its decision. News reports, though, explain that Mr. Voorhis's legal defense admitted that the ICE agent accessed the NCIC database to obtain information about certain people who received plea bargains. The defense argued that the ICE agent had a legitimate reason for accessing the NCIC database -- to force change in a bad criminal justice policy. The defense argued that the ICE agent's job description includes investigations that "led to change in laws."

According to the Rocky Mountain News, the foreman of the jury said in an interview that he believed the ICE agent was doing an investigation that could lead to a change in the law when he accessed the NCIC database. And that the ICE agent would be justified to change policy and procedures and to change court decisions.

Beyond the criminal charges, the outcome is unclear -- he remains on unpaid administrative leave and must take certain actions to try to get his job back.


At 1:32 PM, Blogger Himtngal said...

This is pure BS. No one's "constitutonal rights" were violated, certainly not Walter Ramo's. It's obvious, this author is ignorant of basic distinctions in law.

At 6:25 PM, Blogger jnsampson said...

1. Mr. Voorhis, as every private CITIZEN, has a Constitutional Right to petition any member of Congress, even Bob Beauprez.

2. Walter Noel Ramo is an illegal alien who does not have any Privace Act protection.

3. For the record, Colorado has this quaint law called the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) which makes virtually all criminal cases public record unless sealed by the court.

4. Mr. Voorhis exposed what can only be described as a serious public safety issue so that the public would be aware. The FACT is that the Denver DA's office has admitted, to the FBI, that the sole purpose of allowing aliens to plea to Trespass Upon Agricultural Land is so the aliens can avoid "automatic deportation". That constitutes "Obstruction of Justice".

4. Might I suggest that if you are truly interested in the FACTS and not mere editorial commentary laced with conjecture or posturing based upon an agenda, go to and run Walter Ramo. It costs a whole $6.50 or so. Or you can go to the Official Website of the City and County of Denver and navigate to the court page and do the same thing.

There is a presumption of innocence in this, and every criminal case. Although you have mentined it, it seems that you have already convicted Mr. Voorhis without the benefit of seeing or hearing the EVIDENCE.

Lastly, if Mr. Voorhis is guilty of what he is accused of, what does that make the Denver DA's office employee who ran Mr. Ramo in NCIC and CCIC in order to "respond to public and media inquiries"? The last time I checked, that is NOT a permissible use of NCIC and CCIC.

At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that this seems to be a Colorado "issue", but if one examines the criminal justice information sharing systems nationwide, and the glaring abuse of the information contained therein, then one would realize the need for the laws and regulations governing their use. I would think that Title 18, USC, 2721 would come into play in a case such as this?


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