Rafael Gallego, 59, was arrested outside Pima County Superior Court as he was headed to the second day of a jury trial. A mistrial was declared in that case, his attorney said.
Soon after, agents armed with military-style rifles raided Gallego’s office, handcuffed his legal secretary, and held her at gunpoint, according to an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson by Gallego’s attorney, Joshua Hamilton.
The arrest was “unnecessarily dramatic,” Hamilton wrote, saying the doors to the office were unlocked during business hours when agents arrived. He questioned why Gallego was not issued a summons to appear in federal court so that he could voluntarily present himself.
Hamilton asked Judge Rosemary Marquez to order the documents, computers, and a cell phone seized by the FBI be turned over to an independent investigator to ensure no confidential information on Gallego’s clients is released.
“There is no question that the government is now in possession of a significant amount of privileged information, much of which is wholly unrelated to its current investigation of Mr. Gallego,” Hamilton wrote.
Hamilton referenced the appointment of a special master to review the documents seized from Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, as a successful model.
Marquez ordered federal investigators not to inspect any seized materials until a hearing is held, court records show.
Gallego and his assistant, Ricardo Gallego, 39, were indicted on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, conspiracy to commit false statements, obstruction of justice, accessory after the fact and conspiracy to tamper with a witness, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, which is handling the case.
Both men are accused of lying to federal investigators and a prosecutor in a cocaine-smuggling case from 2017. In that case, customs officers in Nogales arrested a man in January 2017 after allegedly finding more than 20 pounds of cocaine hidden in the airbag compartment of his vehicle. The drug-smuggling charges in that case were dismissed in October 2017, court records show.
The indictment alleges that during that case, the attorney and his assistant conspired to lie to investigators, border agents and an assistant U.S. attorney. They are also accused of providing assistance to their client to hinder and prevent his apprehension, trial and punishment on the drug charges.
The two also are accused of trying to persuade their client to provide false information to investigators, according to the news release.
Gallego has worked as an attorney in Arizona since 1991, including as a deputy Pima County Attorney, Hamilton wrote.
He was suspended by the Arizona Bar Association for one year in March 2008 after an investigation determined that he was using cocaine prior to and during a murder trial, according to the Bar Association.
In the motion Friday, Hamilton said Gallego had a “prior disciplinary history owing to a substance abuse issue, long since resolved, and has been a a member (of the state bar) in good standing ever since.”
The two men face up to 20 years in prison on the witness-tampering charges, 10 years for obstruction of justice charges and up to five years on the other conspiracy charges, according to the news release.