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Federal Prosecutor’s Spouse Charged With Wiretap Disclosure

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The husband of a veteran assistant U.S. attorney in Albuquerque has been indicted on charges that he leaked wiretap information to a target of a federal firearms trafficking investigation.

Danny Burnett, a retired teacher who also served as a principal and school superintendent, was indicted Thursday on three counts of disclosing wiretap information and one count of lying to federal investigators.

Burnett is the husband of Paula Burnett, who this week stepped down as chief of the U.S. attorney’s criminal division. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Tierney was named acting chief.

Nothing in the four-count indictment indicates how Danny Burnett had access to the wiretap information. It also doesn’t say how federal authorities concluded that Danny Burnett had disclosed the information.

No charges have been made against Paula Burnett, who continues to work as an attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque. During her lengthy career as a prosecutor, she has handled many high-profile prosecutions, including that of former state Sen. Manny Aragon and others involved in the $4.2 million construction fraud during the building of the Metropolitan Courthouse in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque attorney Nancy Hollander, speaking as a friend and not an attorney, said Mrs. Burnett fully supports her husband and believes he will be vindicated.

His attorney Jacquelyn Robins said, “Danny Burnett will be exonerated. We trust the American judicial system and the facts will come out in court.”

An arraignment has not been scheduled. The case was filed in federal court in Las Cruces on Thursday afternoon.

The prosecution is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District of Texas because the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque would have a conflict investigating the spouse of one of its own employees.

A spokesman for federal prosecutors in Texas didn’t return telephone messages for comment left late Friday afternoon.

According to the indictment, Danny Burnett on Feb. 11, 2011, attempted to tip off “John Doe Number One” about a possible wiretap on John Doe’s telephone.

The indictment alleges that Danny Burnett also disclosed to John Doe Number One the contents of conversation between John Doe Number One and John Doe Number Two that had been intercepted by federal investigators.

The two John Does had a conversation about two firearms seized by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives during a search warrant served a few days earlier, according to the indictment.

That conversation was intercepted on a federal wiretap and Burnett told John Doe Number One that the conversation had been picked up on a wiretap.

Burnett is also charged with making a false statement to an agent of the Office of Inspector General from the Department of Justice in February of this year when he was questioned about disclosing wiretap information to John Doe Number One.

The indictment doesn’t disclose what firearms trafficking investigation Burnett allegedly leaked information about.

During the time period mentioned in the indictment, there were several high-profile investigations in southern New Mexico involving gun trafficking to Mexican drug cartels.

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