The redacted transcripts from the Kontogiannis plea hearings are available. The chronology surrounding the debates over sealing these proceedings suggests that Judge Burns decided there was no longer a sufficiently compelling reason to seal Kontogiannis' hearings. It was after that point when the government declared a need to continue sealing--or at least redact--the hearing transcripts.
- February 21, 2007: The government presents its case to Judge Burns for sealing the plea deal. The government says it would take about 10 weeks to get to sentencing for Kontogiannis.
- February 22, 2007: After reviewing relevant cases, Judge Burns decides he needs to give notice of a sealed proceeding, so the plea deal must wait for one day. See Spencer Ackerman for a description of the case Burns cites--which involves an espionage case.
- February 23, 2007: After giving 20 hours of notice and an opportunity for the public to object, Burns takes Kontogiannis' plea deal.
- Around March 26, 2007: Prosecutors submit a report to Burns advocating continued sealing of the proceedings.
- April 24, 2007: The agents and AUSAs working with Kontogiannis on another investigation present the general outlines of their rationale to continue sealing the proceedings.
- May 25, 2007: After receiving the third interim declaration on the reasons to seal Kontogiannis' hearings, Judge Burns rules that the latest declaration does not present compelling interest to continue sealing the proceedings.
- June 22, 2007: In response to a hearing and an ex parte filing, Judge Burns orders the February 21, 22, and 23 transcripts to be unsealed in their entirety. He agrees to the redaction of the April 24 transcript, from page 13, line 25, to page 17, line 25.
- June 25, 2007: Kontogiannis scheduled to return from overseas trip (presumably related to his cooperation).
- June 29, 2007: Government and Kontogiannis appeal Burns' decision to unseal the transcripts.
Now, it's clear from the unsealed transcripts that Kontogiannis was cooperating in a terrorism investigation of some sort. What I find interesting is that Burns only accepted the first two declarations supporting a compelling interest to keep the transcripts sealed. Before Kontogiannis' planned June trip, Burns became convinced that there was no longer a compelling interest to keep the files sealed. Though in the first hearing on this, Burns states that after the grand jury expires, he would have much less incentive to keep the proceedings sealed.
Update: Here's the description of the events Kontogiannis had planned for June. I assume this event still took place--which means it took place (or Kontogiannis was out of the country) right in the middle of the time his plea deal was being unsealed.
Mr. O'Connell: Your honor, apparently there is a specific event planned for the June period. If we could perhaps have the first week in July.
The Court: July 2nd. Is that agreeable with the government?
Mr. O'Connell: Maybe not too close to the 4th of July.
The Court: How about if we move it back to the last week in May?
Mr. O'Connell: I much prefer a little bit forward, your Honor.
The Defendant: I shall return by June 25th, your Honor.
The Court: June 25th.
Also note: per the first hearing transcript, the dedicated grand jury assigned to this case expired in June.
So that may well have been the precipitating factor for Burns' decision.