Judge orders FBI to turn over information on laptop of homicide victim Democrat staffer Seth Rich

Court was "not persuaded" by FBI's claims of family privacy.

Updated: October 6, 2022 - 1:45pm

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A judge has ordered the FBI to release information it has in connection to the laptop of Seth Rich, a former Democratic National Committee staffer who was fatally shot in Washington in 2016. 

Rich's 2016 death sparked conspiracy theories that he had participated in the DNC's infamous email leak that same year; that data breach has been linked to Russian hackers who were hoping to influence that year's presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.

In a Sept. 29 ruling, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant ruled partially in favor of Brian Huddleston, a Texas resident who in both 2017 and 2020 filed repeated Freedom of Information Act requests with the FBI related to its investigations into Rich's murder. 

The court found that, though the FBI had broad latitude to withhold many documents from its FOIA response, the bureau had "improperly withheld" information "with regard to Seth Rich's laptop" in its possession. 

Mazzant in the ruling ordered the FBI to "produce the information it possesses related to Seth Rich’s laptop and responsive to [Huddleston's] FOIA requests within 14 days of this Order." 

The bureau has until Thursday, Oct. 13, to respond to the ruling. 

Mazzant further noted in the ruling that though the FBI had conducted a technically "adequate" search for Huddleston's records requests, it was nevertheless "far from perfect."

"Had it not been for Huddleston’s persistence, it is likely that the Government’s failure to locate over 20,000 pages of potentially responsive records would have gone unnoticed," the judge wrote.

Authorities say Rich—who was reportedly heavily intoxicated at the time of his death—was likely killed in a burglary gone wrong outside of his D.C. house in the early morning hours.