Envirocare of Utah and owner Khosrow Semnani want a federal judge to rule that tapes of telephone conversations made by Larry Anderson, former head of the Utah Division of Radiation Control, are illegal.
State and federal laws allow taping of telephone conversations if one party is aware of the taping but not if the taping is done to conduct criminal activity.In a complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, Semnani alleges Anderson violated federal wiretap statutes by making the tapes for later use in attempts to blackmail Semnani and to extort money from him.
"We're just trying to protect our client's rights under federal statute," said Rodney Snow, Semnani's attorney. "We're seeking an adjudication of the legality of tapes."
A federal grand jury in March indicted Anderson, 62, on six counts of mail fraud, tax evasion and filing false tax returns. Anderson served as director of Radiation Control from 1980 to 1993. He is now retired and living in Mesquite, Nev.
The grand jury said Anderson began extorting money and property from Semnani about the time Envirocare applied in 1987 to operate a low-level radioactive waste site in Tooele County and continued until early 1995.
U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell Thursday denied a motion by Anderson to dismiss a tax evasion charge. Anderson's trial was scheduled for later this month but has been continued while the court considers a sealed motion filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office. Federal prosecutors reportedly want Anderson's attorney, James Haskins, removed from the case because he might be called as a witness.
Semnani, 51, pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor charge that he paid Anderson $40,000 in 1993 knowing that Anderson would not report the income. He was fined $100,000 and agreed to testify against Anderson.
Anderson claimed payments from Semnani were for consulting services. The payments and relationship between the two came to light in 1997 when Anderson filed a lawsuit seeking about $5 million more from Semnani for promised consulting fees.
In the complaint filed Thursday, Semnani says Anderson began recording their telephone conversations without his knowledge in the summer of 1994 when Anderson realized that Semnani was not going to continue making payments. Anderson continued recording their telephone conversations into early 1995, the complaint says.
The complaint says Anderson told Semnani that he would make the tapes public and turn them over to a local television station if Semnani did not pay the amounts demanded.
Since the tapes have already been made public, Snow says Semnani's main concern is that information from the tapes be kept out of other civil proceedings.
Semnani's attorneys will likely file a motion for preliminary injunction next week seeking to prevent Anderson and others from disclosing content on the tapes and from using evidence taken from the tapes.
Snow says the tapes are not originals and could have been altered, Anderson manipulated conversation on the tapes in his favor and attorneys could use information on the tapes out of context.
"It's just not a fair procedure," he said.
Nuclear Fuel Services of Tennessee also filed a $600 million lawsuit against Semnani and Envirocare claiming the relationship with Anderson kept NFS from opening a low-level radiation dump in Garfield County. Semnani's attorneys say the tapes have been discussed in the NFS case.
NFS attorney Tom Karrenberg said the complaint indicates Semnani fears what the tapes contain. Anderson's attorneys said the tapes show that Semnani willingly made the payments.
Envirocare has maintained that payments Semnani made to Anderson did not influence the regulatory approval process. The company says its operations have received approval from the U.S. Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.