The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide whether Robert B. Reckmeyer, accused of helping direct a national drug trafficking ring based in Loudoun County, must turn over personal financial records to the federal grand jury investigating him.
Last April, Reckmeyer turned over his subpoenaed business records to a U.S. District Court grand jury in Alexandria, but refused to release personal documents including bank statements, tax returns and canceled checks. He claimed that such a disclosure would violate his constitutional protection against self-incrimination.
Reckmeyer, who was indicted on 24 counts of drug, firearms and tax violations Jan. 9, is jailed without bond awaiting trial.
Reckmeyer's attorney, John M. Dowd, said yesterday, "It's frightening that the government is asking him to produce his own personal records that they can use against him in court."
U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. concurred with Reckmeyer, ruling on April 13 that the defendant's personal records were protected by the Fifth Amendment, which states that "no person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself."
Bryant quashed the subpoena requesting Reckmeyer's personal records and later the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond upheld his decision.
The Richmond appellate court decided Sept. 24 that there was no constitutional difference between "seizure of a man's private books and papers" and "compelling him to be a witness against himself."
The Justice Department appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, stating in its brief: "We very much doubt that drug ledgers are what members of this Court had in mind in suggesting that the contents of some intimate documents may enjoy a Fifth Amendment protection."
The government said the documents were not of "an intimate, personal nature" and that Reckmeyer was trying to "pass off the records of illegal drug deals as 'tantamount' to a 'private diary.' "
The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in the case for April.