NEW YORK — The government must release sealed documents that could reveal new details about the origins and scope of the prostitution investigation that brought down former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a judge ordered Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff wrote in federal court in Manhattan that the documents, which were FBI applications for wiretaps, should be unsealed "given the strong and obvious public interest in disclosure." He ordered them released by Tuesday.
Prosecutors, who can appeal the decision, had no immediate comment.
The New York Times sued late last year to get access to the documents, which name the 67 people besides Spitzer who were clients of Emperor's Club VIP, a high-end prostitute service. The Times has agreed to allow the government to withhold the names of the customers in the documents.
None of those customers except Spitzer has ever been identified and no client was ever charged. Four people who operated the ring were charged with prostitution and money laundering and have pleaded guilty.
The government has voluntarily unsealed a search warrant application for Emperor's e-mail account, but it withheld applications for wiretaps on cell phones, including one used by a woman who booked appointments with prostitutes.
Prosecutors had argued the release of the documents would violate the privacy of callers and reveal sensitive investigative techniques.
But Rakoff found that "any threats to privacy are eliminated by the redactions (of names) previously agreed to" by prosecutors and the Times.
Spitzer resigned last year after details were revealed of a tryst with one of the ring's prostitutes in a Washington hotel. Investigators had been looking into the governor's affairs after noticing unusual activity _ later shown to be payments to prostitutes _ in his bank accounts.