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Lawyers for Russian accused of hacking say isolation unit impedes his ability to aid defense


SEATTLE — Lawyers for the Russian man charged with hacking into the computer systems of businesses throughout the U.S. have asked a federal judge in Seattle to hold a hearing as soon as possible so they can make their case for moving Roman Seleznev out of a Special Housing Unit.

Seleznev's placement in the unit, where he is isolated, can't make phone calls or connect with other prisoners, also restricts his ability to communicate with his defense team and prepare for his trial, the lawyers said. They said they haven't been able to meet with Seleznev face-to-face and must speak to him through a thick glass wall and with a microphone that frequently cuts out.

Seleznev was arrested in July on 29 counts ranging from bank fraud to hacking to identity theft. He pleaded not guilty. The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused the U.S. government of kidnapping Seleznev.

On Aug. 15, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Donohue ordered Seleznev detained pending trial, arguing he is a flight risk. The Bureau of Prisons placed him in the special unit because he's a "high-profile case," according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Wilkinson. Seleznev's lawyers challenged that position, saying it was not an adequate reason to isolate him.

The judge said it was not his "practice to micromanage" the prison. Prison officials said he's not completely isolated. He has a cellmate, but he was deemed to be a security risk, so must have close supervision, Wilkinson said.

His lawyers say that security is impeding his defense. The judge had not responded to the request for a hearing by Thursday.

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