Privacy SOS

The latest reminder of why you should never talk to the FBI without your lawyer present

It might sound paranoid. It might sound anti-government. But as famous civil rights lawyer Harvey Silverglate says, it’s actually just practical advice: Don’t talk to the FBI without your lawyer present, ever. You may think you have nothing to hide. You may think your refusal to cooperate with agents’ demands will somehow hurt you. But there’s nothing you can do to better protect yourself from FBI manipulation than to refuse to say anything to FBI officials without your lawyer in the room. 

The latest example of why comes in the form of a federal indictment in Atlanta, Georgia, of Ibragim Todashev‘s widow, a woman named Reniya Manukyan. She’s facing years in federal prison on a charge of lying to federal agents. Todashev, remember, was a former friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. An FBI agent killed Todashev in May 2013 in the Chechen immigrant’s Orlando, Florida apartment, in shady circumstances.

No one is accusing Ms. Manukyan of having had anything to do with the Boston marathon bombings, just as her late husband was never accused of complicity in the attacks. No one is accusing her of having anything to do with any violence. Nonetheless, she’s become the latest person connected to Todashev to face harsh government action; other people he knew in Florida, including his girlfriend, were deported in the wake of his killing

It’s unclear why FBI and DOJ officials waited so long to go after Ms. Manukyan on the charge of lying to federal agents. But one thing is clear: She may have avoided this fate had she refused to talk to the FBI without her lawyer present. Be sure you protect yourself and don’t make the same mistake.

Watch the video below to learn more about how the FBI puts people in a vice—and how to avoid becoming a victim of this tactic.

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© 2024 ACLU of Massachusetts.