Chicago attorney in hot water for tweeting pics of ‘spoofing’ trial evidence

Chicago’s chief federal judge is threatening to sanction a local attorney who allegedly tweeted photos of evidence during a first-of-its-kind trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse last month.

Vincent Paul Schmeltz, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, is accused in court records of taking photographs in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber during the trial of Michael Coscia. Schmeltz acknowledged to the Chicago Sun-Times that he took the pictures and said he simply “made a mistake.”

“I was struck by the evidence and thought, ‘People who aren’t here would be equally interested in this evidence,’” Schmeltz said.

A federal jury found Coscia guilty last week of a fraud and “spoofing” scheme that disrupted the financial markets to Coscia’s profit. Coscia’s trial began Oct. 26. Schmeltz is accused of firing off nine tweets about the trial on Oct. 28 “with each tweet including a photograph of the evidence being displayed during the testimony” of Coscia’s trial, records show.

“Coscia’s handwritten notes clearly documented his plan = no intent to deceive. #cosciatrial,” Schmeltz allegedly wrote in one tweet.

Courthouse rules prohibit photography except in a designated media area in the lobby. An FBI agent spotted Schmeltz taking the photos, records show. He is now expected to appear Dec. 8 before U.S. Chief Judge Ruben Castillo.

Schmeltz told the Sun-Times he rarely observes trials and didn’t think to check the local rule before taking the photographs. He said he’ll accept “whatever admonishment the court thinks is necessary.”

“I’m certainly embarrassed by it,” Schmeltz said.

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