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It was the ultimate ex-wife revenge. That’s how one appeals judge recently characterized the case of a Chicago lawyer whose ex-wife allegedly spied on her husband and helped the government convict him of smuggling Cuban cigars into the United States, a crime that got him a three-year prison sentence. “[A]s far as dishing out discomfort is concerned, the havoc visited on Chicago lawyer Richard Connors by his ex-wife would win a gold medal for creativity,” 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Terence T. Evans wrote in the opinion. The appeals court denied Connors’ bid to have his conviction overturned. Connors was a former Cook County, Ill., public defender. “When a friend is false, blame the friend, not the government,” the court stated in its opinion. “The fact that [the ex-wife] was spying on Connors and exploiting his misplaced trust in her does not by itself amount to a constitutional violation, even if it was at the behest of the government.” USA v. Connors, No. 04-3478 (7th Cir.). Attorney Peter Moore, one of several lawyers from the Chicago office of Latham & Watkins who represented Connors, said his client is considering further appeals. “The activity that occurred here was one of the worst kinds of government intrusion into a house-when you take somebody who has a relationship with somebody and basically use them as your agent to go in and get evidence that the Constitution doesn’t otherwise allow you to get,” Moore said, arguing that the government’s actions amounted to an illegal search and seizure. According to court documents, Connors’ troubles began in 1996 when his ex-wife, Nicole Chakalis, tipped off a government agent about a trip that her husband had planned to take to Cuba. Following that tip, that same year, authorities arrested Connors at the Canadian border, where he was caught with a trunkload of Cuban cigars-46 boxes, which were to be sold for about $350 a box. Over the next three years, the government continued to investigate Connors with the help of his ex-wife, who allegedly visited Connors’ home, with his permission, and removed incriminating evidence from it. According to court documents, the woman threw the documents into the trash so that the agent could collect it without having to obtain a search warrant. In 2004, Connors was sentenced to 37 months in prison and fined $60,000 after a jury convicted him of smuggling, trading with the enemy, conspiracy to trade with the enemy and lying to a passport officer. According to court documents, Connors was unaware of his ex-wife’s cooperation until after the trial when, “apparently remorseful, she told him what she had done.” At a post-trial hearing, she testified that the agent had asked her “to cozy up to Connors” and suggested that she obtain incriminating documents from his house. Moore stressed that this element was crucial to the case: that the government put the ex-wife up to spying on her husband and collecting evidence against him. Angela Crawford, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, who handled the government’s case, was unavailable for comment.

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