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Cory Voorhis hearing should be off-limits to press, supporters, ICE says

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The saga of former ICE agent Cory Voorhis seems to get messier with each passing day.

Voorhis was dismissed from his job for allegedly accessing a federal database for political rather than law-enforcement reasons -- the very thing his supporters accuse U.S. Attorney-nominee Stephanie Villafuerte of doing. But Voorhis, who was acquitted of criminal wrongdoing in the database matter, has been ordered not to talk to the press in advance of a December 9 and 10 hearing before Merit Systems Protection Board administrative judge Jeremiah Cassidy to determine whether he should get his old position back.

The latest? Voorhis still hasn't received a chunk of back pay that was supposed to have come his way as the result of a July settlement -- and ICE reps are trying to prevent any members of the media or Voorhis supporters (aside from his wife and mother) from attending the December proceedings.

Regarding the back pay, which covers the period between January 23 and April 10 of 2008, Thomas Muther, Voorhis' attorney, has filed a petition for enforcement to unscrew ICE's socks. The money was supposed to be paid between sixty and ninety days after the July 14 settlement; read the entire document here.

As for the limitations on spectators at the hearing, Muther has been corresponding with ICE associate legal advisor Robert Erbe about coordinating the hearings, which will be conducted via video teleconference. According to Muther, "The judge has already come out to Denver once for this, and he's decided he doesn't need to come out again."

The problem: Erbe has arranged for the video teleconference to be held in a room at ICE's offices in Centennial. But when Muther asked if the space would accommodate a sizable number of media members and Voorhis supporters, Erbe responded that the hearing won't be open to the public; the only people who would have access to the conference room would be attorneys, Erbe, Voorhis and witnesses.

Why? At first, Erbe said a big crowd would disrupt agency operations, since the room is near the director's office and isn't big enough to fit even ten spectators. Then, in a subsequent e-mail that offered passes to Voorhis' family members, he raised security concerns, taking note of individuals who've made it clear they believe Voorhis is being wrongfully persecuted in comments on blog pages and Denver Post articles.

This last rationale is particularly irksome to Muther. "He's saying the reason for a security concern is people exercising their right to free speech," he maintains.

At this point, Muther is seeking an alternative site for the video teleconference -- one larger than the room at ICE headquarters. Unfortunately, he notes, Voorhis' resources are limited, particularly given that back pay he still hasn't received. Of course, Erbe might still raise the security issue even if such a location is found -- not that Muther believes that's really an issue.

"In my mind, this is him saying he doesn't want the public involved," Muther argues.

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