Clavir v. Levi – Government Misconduct – CCR Docket 1977-1978

This case concerns the discovery  of an illegal  tracking device on a car owned by Judy Clavir and Stew Albert, who were in New York City visiting Center attorneys Bill Kunstler and Margaret Ratner. A small electronic device called a beeper, which emits periodic signals that can be picked up on a radio frequency, was discovered under the car’s rear bumper. The beeping device, it was later learned, was number 107 of an ap­parently large number of such devices used by police and the F.B.l. As they were leaving the city, Clavir and Albert noticed  a three-car tail following them. They decided not to leave and joined Ratner and Kunstler for dinner at  a  local restaurant. Two young women entered the restaurant, took a flash picture of them and left. There was also evidence of a live tap on the telephone where they were staying.

On the basis of these facts and other instances of  surveillance on Clavir and Albert, a federal  civil rights action was filed  in  March  1976.

The F.B.l. answered the complaint in June, admitting various kind of surveillance against Kunstler, Clavir and Albert, including mail cover, bumper beepers, physical sur­veillance and wiretapping. About  two  months  later , as a result  of a grand jury investigation  into illegal activities  by the   F.B.l., an amended  answer  was   filed admitting to a series of what the F.B. l. called “black bag job” (burglaries) at the house of Clavir and Albert. The  F.B.I.  also admitted it had placed  a  bug in the house.

Since that time, plaintiffs have amended the complaint and are now using the Tort Claims Act in an effort to recover damages for the government’s misconduct. Extensive dis­covery has already occurred and documents obtained make clear that F.B.J.  headquarters  gave agents broad authoriza­tion for burglaries and illegal bugging.

Some of  the defendants  in the  case include L. Patrick Gray, recently indicted for authorizing burglaries, and Wallace La Prade , who was recently forced from  his   New York F.B.I. post. The case has created havoc in the F.B.I. and is one of the pressures that forced Gray’ s  indictment.

Michael Ratner with Paul Chevigny