BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A private investigator accused of trying to steal President Donald Trump's tax returns by hacking a Department of Education website was placed on house arrest Wednesday rather than having his bond revoked as prosecutors requested.
The U.S. Attorney's Office and FBI had asked federal Magistrate Judge Richard Bourgeois to revoke Richard Hamlett's bond, accusing the Baton Rouge private investigator of hacking a man's email account while out on bond awaiting trial on a charge of false personation of a Social Security number.
The case against Hamlett stems from last September when he allegedly used a false Social Security number to try to hack a federal student aid website and obtain Trump's tax return data.
A federal grand jury in Baton Rouge indicted Hamlett on Nov. 10. His attorney, Mike Fizer, kept him out of jail by negotiating bond conditions with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
But last week, federal agents arrested Hamlett on charges that he violated those bond conditions by hacking someone's email account and failing to keep his location-monitoring ankle bracelet charged, among other things.
At his bond-revocation hearing on Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Sanchez called a probation and pretrial-services officer to the stand to present evidence that Hamlett was not cooperating with the conditions of his bond. The officer testified Hamlett allowed the battery on his ankle bracelet to die 69 times.
She also tried to present evidence that he failed to show up to her office when summoned, but when the prosecutor asked for those details, the officer had a difficult time finding the information in her notes.
After about 15 minutes of some confusing back-and-forth between the prosecutor and his witness, the judge interjected.
"Mr. Sanchez, the last 15 minutes has not given me much of anything," Bourgeois said. "It's time to move on."
When the defense questioned the probation officer, she said there were initially some technical problems with the ankle-monitoring bracelet. She testified that though Hamlett always remained in contact with her office, he still failed to keep his bracelet charged after he was given two replacements.
Hamlett then took the stand in his own defense and admitted there were occasions when he forgot to charge his bracelet.
As for the allegations that he hacked a man's email account, Hamlett explained that he had taken on a client who wanted him to investigate her husband's infidelity. During his investigation, he falsely claimed to have hacked the man's email account as a bluff to get him to admit to infidelity, he said.
During cross examination, the prosecutor pressed Hamlett about his use of social media apps to catch the man trying to have an affair. Hamlett testified how he used a fictitious SnapChat account designed to look like a "younger woman" to see how far the woman's husband would go if confronted with an opportunity to have an affair.
After he gave his client the evidence, she separated from her husband for about three weeks, Hamlett said.
When the prosecutor unsuccessfully questioned Hamlett about his use of an Instagram account, the judge once again interjected, showing a hint of frustration toward the sluggish process of the hearing.
"Let's get to the hacking," Bourgeois told the prosecutor.
But it appeared the hacking allegations could not be substantiated as the prosecutor moved on to Hamlett's failure to cooperate with the probation officer.
At the end of the hearing, the judge ruled there was not enough evidence to back up the hacking charge but did find enough evidence to substantiate Hamlett's violation of the bond conditions.
Rather than remand him to jail, Bourgeois ordered Hamlett be placed on house arrest with much stricter conditions that do not allow him to leave his home or use the Internet.