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Did bomb defendant, lawyers conspire?

Federal prosecutors have accused defense attorneys for a man accused of setting off a pipe bomb inside the Salt Lake City Library of "misrepresentation of the facts" after they accused the government last week of illegally obtaining attorney-client recordings from jail.

Last week, attorneys Deirdre Gorman and Edwin Wall filed a motion in U.S. District Court to have the case against Thomas James Zajac dismissed. The two attorneys claimed that collect phone calls from the Weber County Jail between Zajac and certain attorneys were recorded and illegally obtained by federal prosecutors. They say those phone calls were confidential and the action amounts to tainting the evidence in the case.

In their reply filed Thursday, federal prosecutors said the conversations came to light during a court hearing after federal public defense attorneys discovered that Zajac had "conspired" with two local attorneys to use the public defender's office to prepare his case for trial and then have a private attorney step in at the last minute in order to save costs.

"Contrary to the defendant's allegations, the government did not record, review or request any attorney-client materials, the telephone calls did not involve counsel of record, and the defendant fails to show that he was deprived of his right to counsel," the reply states.

In fact, prosecutors point out that Zajac has gone through at least three defense attorneys, not counting the two federal public defenders.

Zajac's last private defense lawyer, Bruce Oliver, was forced to withdraw in April after he was disbarred from federal practice.

Public defense attorneys Robert Steele and Jamie Zenger were reassigned to Zajac but last August asked the court to withdraw "because they believed that the defendant conspired with two local defense attorneys in an attempt to use Federal Defender resources during their preparation of the case, when in fact that defendant actually planned to request new counsel at the time of trial," the reply states.

Steele and Zenger told the court that they learned through jail telephone and other calls that the local attorney would wait while the Federal Defender office worked to secure expert witnesses and then that attorney would step in to take over the case and that "Bruce Oliver would be the 'behind-the-scenes' attorney even though he could no longer practice in federal court."

Zajac's trial, which was scheduled to begin this month, remains on hold pending a federal judge's decision on the motion to dismiss.

Prosecutors say Zajac detonated a pipe bomb inside the main Salt Lake City Library on Sept. 15, 2006, forcing the building's evacuation and causing damage.


E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com