Friday, November 18, 2011
CALL FOR NOMINATIONS FOR
WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE AWARD
The NACDL White Collar Criminal Defense College at Stetson University College of Law is an intensive “boot-camp” style program for practitioners wishing to gain key advocacy skills and learn substantive white collar law. Interactive sessions with top white collar practitioners will allow the participants to learn trial skills such as opening statements, cross-examination, jury instructions, closing arguments, and sentencing – all in the context of a white collar matter.
In conjunction with this event, the Advisory Board of the White Collar Criminal Defense College announces a call for nominations for its White Collar Criminal Defense Award. The following criteria have been established for the award:
- Nominees shall have distinguished him or herself in the white collar defense bar;
- Length of service to the white collar bar and sustained excellence will be considered;
- Nominees should have enjoyed a recent success in a trial or other major result involving a white collar matter;
- Membership in NACDL is not required but is encouraged and will be considered; and
- Nominees may be self-nominated or nominated by others.
All nominations should be submitted to Daniel Weir at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submissions is December 15, 2011.
More information about the NACDL White Collar Criminal Defense College at Stetson, including an agenda, list of faculty, and registration form can be found here.
(esp)(blogging from Washington, D.C.)
The Fourth Circuit issued an unpublished opinion affirming Defendant Okun’s convictions and 100 year sentence. U.S. Attorney, Neil H. MacBride, states regarding this opinion:
"Financial fraudsters make calculated, rational decisions, and the threat of spending as much as 100 years in prison can begin to change corporate culture and behavior. Today’s opinion confirms that it is just for fraudsters who rob the life savings of their victims to spend the rest of their lives – or at least a big chunk of it – behind bars."
Interestingly the court notes in its opinion that the defendant operated a "Ponziesque" scheme, resulting in losses in excess of $125 million dollars." The court notes that the defendant's conviction on twenty-three counts resulted in a sentence of "1200 months' imprisonment, a sentence 3600 months below the advisory Guidelines sentence."
Some may argue that judges are issuing below guidelines sentences in white collar cases. But this case demonstrates the absurdity of issuing guideline sentences. Do you know anyone who has lived 400 years? Is that reasonable?
(esp)(blogging from Washington, D.C.)
Thursday, November 17, 2011
The Second Circuit yesterday reversed and dismissed (without prejudice) the conviction of former New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno for theft of honest services fraud on his failure to disclose alleged conflicts of interest. The reversal was based on the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Skilling, which limited 18 U.S.C. 1346, the honest services statute, to cases involving bribery and kickbacks. Even though some circuit courts have upheld honest services fraud convictions over Skilling challenges, the reversal here was no surprise since, among other things, the government conceded error.
In an earlier blog (see here), we discussed what might have been the most important issue in the case: whether the Court should for double jeopardy purposes analyze the sufficiency of the government's evidence at trial based on the "new" standard set forth in Skilling or the "old" standard existing at the time of the trial.
Bruno argued that if there were insufficient evidence at trial to justify a conviction under the Skilling bribery and kickback theory of honest services fraud, the Court must bar retrial on double jeopardy grounds. The government argued that sufficiency review under a standard different from that at the time of trial was inappropriate and unfair. (The defense did not contend there was insufficient evidence based on the law at the time of trial.) At oral argument, the government stated that the evidence at the new trial would be the same as in the first.
The Court, declining to enact any black letter law, and relying considerably on the government's concession that the evidence would not change at a second trial, agreed to analyze the sufficiency of evidence based on the new, narrower Skilling standard. Nonetheless, after reviewing the facts, the Court held that the evidence was sufficient under that standard. Bruno, therefore, won the battle but lost the war. The government announced that it will reindict him under an honest services fraud theory based on bribery and kickbacks.
Last week, a Southern District of New York jury acquitted William Boyland, Jr., a New York State Assemblyman, of honest services fraud for allegedly receiving bribes from David Rosen, the chief executive of a hospital conglomerate, apparently because of lack of sufficient proof of a quid quo pro. Interestingly, Rosen had two months earlier been convicted in a non-jury trial before Judge Jed S. Rakoff for conspiracy to bribe Boyland based on the same payments at issue. (The cases were not mirror images. Rosen was also charged and convicted of conspiring with two others -- a state senator and another assemblyman.)
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, in a recent speech to the American Lawyer/National Law Journal Summit spoke about what he considers disparities in sentencing. He stated:
"One area – though by no means the only one – in which we have seen significant disparities in sentencing in the last several years is financial fraud. With increasing frequency, federal judges have been sentencing fraud offenders – especially offenders involved in high-loss fraud cases – inconsistently. For example, a defendant in one district may be sentenced to one or two years in prison for causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, while a defendant in another district is sentenced to ten or 20 years in prison for causing much smaller losses."
Of course there are differences. Sentences should not be based solely on the crime or amount of loss involved.And yes, there are disaparities - there are disparities in the charging practices of prosecutors. Lest us forget - we sentence people, not numbers, and people are different.
See also Mike Scarcella, BLT Blog, DOJ's Lanny Breuer Addresses Sentencing Disparities
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
I have a nagging feeling that Penn State football ex-coach Joe Paterno may have lost the game on a bad call by the referee(s). Paterno, although not charged criminally, has been fired and vilified for what many suspect was his involvement in a cover-up to protect Penn State and its football program. While Paterno might arguably be faulted for a moral lapse for not personally reporting the allegation directly to public authorities, he did, promptly and probably accurately, report what he had been told to his administrative higher-ups, including the official in charge of the university police, one of the law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction over on-campus crime.
The basic facts as regards Paterno, according to the Pennsylvania grand jury report (see here), are as follows: A 28-year old Penn State graduate assistant (known to be Mike McQueary) in March 2002 observed Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant coach who had access to its football facilities, in a shower room subjecting a boy estimated to be 10 years old to anal intercourse. The following day, a Saturday, McQueary reported to Paterno "what he had seen." The next day, a Sunday, according to Paterno he called to his home Tim Curley, the university athletic director and his immediate nominal supervisor, and told Curley that McQueary had seen Sandusky "fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy." Subsequently, at a meeting with Gary Schultz, the Penn State senior vice president who oversaw the campus police, Paterno reported (according to Schultz) that Sandusky had engaged in "disturbing" and "inappropriate" conduct in the shower with a young boy.
Approximately one and one half weeks after the shower incident, in a meeting with Curley and Schultz, McQueary testified, he told them he had observed Sandusky having anal sex with a boy. Paterno was not present at that meeting.
Schultz, who was aware of an allegation against Sandusky in 1998 that was investigated with no resulting arrest, did not report the incident to the police. Curley and Schultz reported the incident to university now ex-president Graham Spanier as Sandusky "horsing around" in the shower with a "younger" child. Spanier testified that, as reported to him, the incident was not of a "sexual nature," and he made no report to authorities.
Curley was indicted for making a materially false statement under oath for denying that McQueary (presumably in the meeting not attended by Paterno) had told him that Sandusky had engaged "in sexual conduct or anal sex." Schultz was indicted for making a materially false statement under oath that the allegations made by the graduate assistant were "not that serious" and that he and Curley "had no indication that a crime had occurred."
Both Curley and Schultz were also charged with the then "summary offense" (less serious than a misdemeanor) of failure to report suspected child abuse. The applicable Pennsylvania statute (since amended), according to the grand jury report, mandated reporting by "the person in charge of the school or institution" to the Department of Public Welfare. Presumably that "person in charge" was ex-president Spanier, and Curley and Schultz, it seems, were charged as persons whose alleged playing down of the incident caused Spanier not to make a report.
The criminal case against Curley and Schultz, and the moral case against Paterno, is based to a considerable extent on the accuracy of the un-cross-examined testimony about an incident 9 years ago by McQueary, whom the grand jury, according to the report, found "extremely credible." It is far from clear exactly what McQueary told Paterno. Indeed, the grand jury report, which otherwise details what McQueary reported to Curley and Schultz with some specificity, describes what McQueary told Paterno only in very broad strokes -- "what he had seen." Paterno in a recent statement claimed McQueary did not mention the "very specific actions." Thus, it appears questionable whether McQueary had reported to Paterno that Sandusky and the child had engaged in anal sex. Accordingly, when Paterno reported to Curley that he heard Sandusky was "fondling or doing something of a sexual nature," he may well not have been watering down McQueary's report.
Indeed, Paterno is likely the major corroborative witness in the prosecution case against Curley and Schultz. (The boy, it appears, had not yet been identified.) The report states that Schultz and Curley "were notified by two different Penn State employees of the alleged sexual exploitation," those witnesses apparently being McQueary and Paterno. Paterno, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly has announced, is not a criminal target.
The public, including me, sometimes feels some satisfaction when it learns of the fall of the rich and famous and the sports figures whom we believe get privileged treatment, and sometimes jumps to hasty conclusions of guilt which turn out to be wrong -- witness the Duke lacrosse players and probably Strauss-Kahn cases. The grand jury report, most likely written by the prosecution, even while presenting the prosecution case without any challenge by the defense, does not convince me that Paterno did anything wrong -- criminally, civilly or morally.
It may well be that it will ultimately be revealed that Paterno deliberately minimized Sandusky's reported conduct -- and participated in a cover-up -- or that his failure to assume the responsibility to report was a grievous error. The grand jury report did not concern moral guilt. And perhaps the prosecutors went out of their way not to criticize Paterno, who, it appears, will be a key witness for them at trial.
Perhaps Paterno acted or failed to act to avoid embarrassment to the university, the football program or himself and/or to protect a colleague from arrest and prosecution, or both. Perhaps he chose not to go directly to the police or welfare agency for the same or similar reasons. Paterno, after all, as a coach no doubt believes that "the team" comes first. He is, as Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has intimated, also a creature of a different generation -- a generation which believed strongly in personal loyalty and was reluctant to "name names."
The grand jury report itself, however, does not make, and does not support, an allegation that Paterno deliberately participated in a cover-up.