Sunday, October 21, 2007
One of the original defendants in the Milberg Weiss kickback case pleaded guilty, leaving only two individuals remaining along with the firm. Seymour Lazar entered a guilty plea to obstruction of justice, filing a false tax return, and making a false declaration in federal court. Lazar had served as the representative plaintiff in a number of Milberg Weiss class actions, and admitted to accepting $2.6 million from the firm for his compliant service as the named plaintiff in the actions. According to an AP story (here), prosecutors will recommend the eighty-year old Lazar be sentenced to home detention due to his declining health. Lazar is unlikely to be a witness in the prosecution of Melvyn Weiss, the only attorney from the firm who is fighting the charges after three of his former partners -- Steven Schulman, David Bershad, and William Lerach -- pleaded guilty and admitted to making the payments to class representatives. Lazar proclaimed his innocence rather loudly after being indicted, and would not be a particularly strong witness for the government if he is only sentenced to home detention.
The plea deal with Lazar lets the government puts its focus on Weiss, who has indicated that he has no intention of making a deal -- although this case has shown that hardline statements about seeking vindication at trial do not necessarily mean the case will play out in court. The strength of the government's case will be the testimony of Schulman and Bershad, who dealt with Weiss directly on the payments. Lerach is not required to cooperate as part of his plea deal, and his contentious relationship with Weiss, which led to the break-up of the original version of Milberg Weiss in 2004, would not make him an effective witness. (ph)