Judge permits undercover videos in IBF case

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The Independent Online

Jurors in the International Boxing Federation corruption case will get to see undercover videotapes of group founder Robert W Lee Sr handling what prosecutors maintain are payoffs from boxing promoters.

Opening statements are scheduled for Tuesday. They had been on hold ad the FBI's key informant, C Douglas Beavers, the IBF's longtime rankings chairman.

US District Judge John W Bissell was initially inclined to bar videos from two of the meetings, but prosecutors convinced him that Lee could not expect privacy in the sitting area of a hotel suite.

Bissell said the FBI took "reasonable safeguards" to avoid taping Lee when Beavers was not in the parlor, and although "there were instances in which perfection was not achieved," they were not prevalent.

Lee and other IBF officials are accused of taking $338,000 in bribes to rig the organization's rankings, which help determine whom a boxer fights and how much he earns.

Prosecutors maintain promoter Don King was a prime beneficiary of Lee's manipulations, but King has not been charged.

Lee's schemes began shortly after starting the East Orange-based IBF in 1983, prosecutors say. As one of the world's three major sanctioning groups, its rankings have been the basis for many important fights.

Bissell has barred Lee, 66, from any participation in the IBF, pending outcome of the trial, which is expected to last three months. At the request of prosecutors, Bissell in January appointed a monitor to oversee the group.

The tapes stem from meetings on rankings Lee had with Beavers, a Virginia boxing commissioner, at the Holiday Inn in Portsmouth, Virginia, on June 9, 1997; December 18, 1997; and October 21, 1998. The first two were in a suite that included a bedroom; the third was in a conference room that adjoined a bedroom.

Beavers wore a body wire at those meetings, but the recordings failed, prosecutors said. He also recorded dozens of telephone conversations with Lee, and is expected to testify for several weeks. The US attorney's office has agreed not to prosecute Beavers and granted him immunity.

Lee lawyer Gerald Krovatin said the hotel rooms were "the functional equivalent of your home" and entitled Lee to Fourth Amendment privacy protection.

He asserted that prosecutors should have gotten a judicial order before videotaping.

Prosecutors said that since they already had a wired informant, a judge would not have been likely to grant such a request.

The audiotapes of phone calls with Beavers did not need such an order because agents had the consent of one party - Beavers - so Krovatin did not challenge those tapes.

During the June 1997 meeting, Beavers and Lee discuss demanding $25,000 to move heavyweight Joe Hipp up to the No 6 contender slot, according to a sworn statement from an FBI agent.

In a tape from December 1997, Beavers is seen removing a package of $5,000 from his ankle and giving it to Lee, according the statement. Investigators say the money is a payoff from a promoter.

On October 21, 1998, Beavers takes money from his ankle and gives some to Lee and some to a former IBF official, Don Brennan, and Lee puts an envelope on a table and says it is "turkey" from "Fuzzy," the FBI said.

In court papers, Beavers said that "turkey" was a payoff and "Fuzzy" was King.

Lee was indicted in November with three other IBF officials.

He and his son, Robert Jr, 38, will be the only defendants on trial. They face multiyear prison terms if convicted on conspiracy, racketeering, fraud and tax charges.

Francisco Fernandez of Colombia, the South American representative of the IBF, remains at large.

Brennan, 86, past president of the US Boxing Association, a group that became the IBF, was severed from the trial due to ill health.