Wednesday, June 18, 2008
It all started back in September of 2005 when David Safavian, " [a] former General Services Administration (GSA) official was arrested on charges of making false statements and obstructing an investigation by the GSA’s Office of Inspector General (GSA-OIG)." (press release). And it all pertained to Jack Abramoff and a golf trip. (see here and here). At the beginning Karl Rove's name was mentioned, and one wondered whether there was a desire to have Safavian implicate someone high-up in the administration. (see here). But early on it was easy to discern that the source of the information for bringing the Safavian case was from Abramoff -- and he was talking. (see here)
The government did some unusual things in the course of this case - they went so far as to release emails between Safavian and Abramoff (see here). And one had to wonder if they were looking for a quick plea or someone who might talk and give them information in support of Abramoff. As opposed to investigating any possible real conduct, the government opted for the "shortcut" using so-called easier to prove crimes like obstruction of justice. (see here). But taking shortcuts does not always work. Safavian instead decided to take the government on - he went to trial. He was convicted and did not join the "Abramoff Club" as a cooperating witness.(see here). The government wanted a guideline sentence of 30-37 months and the defense wanted home confinement or probation. (see here). The judge went for the middle-ground and entered an 18 month sentence for Safavian. (see here). Interestingly, Safavian was not willing to offer the remorse needed for perhaps a lower sentence, but in retrospect one sees he made a good choice.
Fast forward to this week. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed some of the counts, and vacated and remanded some other counts. Some thoughts:
- Even when you win, you lose. One can't bring back the years of turmoil and uncertainty caused by waiting for this case to be resolved. Those around him have probably suffered with him. And the attorney fee bills have probably added up throughout this process. The golf trip of August 2002 has been a costly one for David Safavian, irrespective of this recent judicial support.
- It seems bizarre to say that "once an individual starts talking, he cannot stop." The court reinforces the position that absent a legal duty to disclose there can be no concealment. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals even goes so far to say that there are no cases that support the government's position here.
- The exclusion of evidence was found to be improper. The district court was afraid the evidence would confuse the jury - and in white collar cases that can easily happen. But on the other hand experts are needed in these cases because there are difficult matters that a jury needs to understand in order to determine whether conduct should be considered criminal.
- The court leaves open the option for a new trial on some of the counts. But one has to wonder if this golf extravaganza is really worth any more taxpayer time and money. The game is over.
Opinion - Download Safavian.pdf
(esp) (blogging from Baltimore)