On Dec. 1 it will be a year since FBI agents showed up at LA Unified’s headquarters with a federal grand jury subpoena and carted off 20 boxes of documents related to the district’s controversial iPad program.
Since that day little if any new information has been publicly revealed about the investigation’s status, and that is primarily due to the secrecy laws that surround federal grand juries. Unless the jury issues an indictment or an investigative report, the evidence and testimony is by law to remain forever sealed, and leaks of federal grand jury evidence are extremely rare.
With almost a year passed since the subpoena, it is possible the grand jury found no evidence of wrong doing and has dissolved, but James A. Cohen, an associate law professor at Fordham University, said it’s unusual — though not impossible — for a grand jury investigation to take more than a year.
“It’s coming up on a year in December. It’s a long period, no question. It’s not that unusual, but it is still on the unusual side,” he said.
Cohen helps run Fordham’s Federal Litigation Clinic, which represents defendants charged with federal crimes; he has also written about and researched the grand jury system. Cohen pointed out that an LA Unified school board agenda item from August, as was reported by LA School Report, indicates that the district’s lawyers might have foreseen trouble coming from the investigation or a related lawsuit.
The brief item, which simply said the board was going to discuss the case in a closed session, was listed on the agenda due to a state law that reads “on the advice of its legal counsel, based on existing facts and circumstances, there is a significant exposure to litigation against the local agency.”
Cohen said this is an important indicator.