,HARRISBURG -- Pennsylvania prosecutors are expected to urge the Legislature to close a loophole that allowed a defense lawyer to obtain the cell-phone records of law-enforcement officials involved in the criminal prosecution of a casino owner without the officials' consent or knowledge.
Veteran lawyers were shocked to learn that Sprint-Nextel turned over 18 months of cell-phone records without telling the customers -- Dauphin County District Edward M. Marsico Jr., his top deputy and two state troopers assigned to the organized-crime unit, a regional newspaper reported Sunday.
The company did so last month in response to a subpoena from the lawyer for a Roman Catholic priest who is charged with perjury along with his friend, Louis DeNaples, owners of the Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos.
Kathleen McDonnell, an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia who is legislative liaison for the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, said the loophole could expose certain people, such as victims of domestic abuse or confidential police sources, to unnecessary danger if such information were disclosed without their knowledge.
"This should concern everybody," McDonnell said Monday.
Many of the county district attorneys are in Erie for a biannual meeting this week. McDonnell said she expects the group will approve a resolution urging legislative action Tuesday, with the details to be firmed up prior to the vote.
"Right now, it's news to everybody," said McDonnell, who said she could not recall a similar case in her more than 20 years as a lawyer.
Sprint-Nextel spokesman Matthew Sullivan says the company adheres to state and federal laws in dealing with "tens of thousands" of subpoenas and records requests that it receives each year.
The company does not have a policy of notifying customers whose records are released, he said.
Francis Chardo, the Marsico deputy whose records were subpoenaed, declined to discuss his own situation Monday. But he said Pennsylvania case law allows any party to a court proceeding -- even a non-lawyer -- to issue subpoenas and requires that the information be delivered to the court.
There is no requirement for notifying people who could be affected by the disclosure.
"A lot of companies give notice, some won't," he said.
DeNaples, a wealthy Scranton-area businessman, and the Rev. Joseph Sica of Scranton were both charged with perjury in January following a Dauphin County grand jury investigation of allegations that they lied about their associations with organized crime. DeNaples is accused of lying to state gambling agents while he was seeking his slots license, while Sica is accused of lying to the grand jury.
In response to an appeal by DeNaples, the state Supreme Court ordered a Dauphin County judge to conduct a hearing on whether a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate supposed leaks from the grand jury.
As part of that hearing, attorneys for the two men subpoenaed 15 journalists from six news organizations, seeking to learn their sources. Sica's lawyer, Sal Cognetti Jr., subpoenaed the Sprint-Nextel records, according to a regional newspaper.
Cognetti did not return a voicemail message seeking comment about the disclosure Monday.