Thursday, June 2, 2011
Dominique Strauss-Kahn is not accused of a white-collar crime, but he is a prototypical white-collar defendant – important, rich, and well-connected.
Strauss-Kahn, a French citizen accused of attempted rape and other crimes, was denied bail at his arraignment by a New York City lower court judge. A major justification was that France (like Germany, China, Japan, and many other nations) will not extradite its nationals. Subsequently, Strauss-Kahn’s experienced and able attorneys, desperate to get him released, proposed a highly onerous bail package, which a higher court judge accepted over the prosecutor’s strenuous objection. That bail package consists of a $1 million cash bond, an additional $5 million bond secured by a home owned by Strauss-Kahn’s wife, home confinement in New York City with an ankle bracelet, inside and outside video cameras, and even a 24/7 armed guard (Why armed? To shoot him if he tries to escape? To prevent the French foreign legion from freeing him?). These security measures reportedly will cost $200,000 a month. Strauss-Kahn, like all persons confined at home pre-trial, will receive no jail credit for his period of house arrest.
One wonders whether Strauss-Kahn’s bail conditions will become a prototype for bail conditions for major white-collar defendants, at least those with foreign or multi-national citizenship (an increasing number with the expansion of both the global economy and prosecutorial jurisdictional reach). The setting of bail is perhaps the most unguided and unpredictable of judicial decisions. Judges have wide discretion, amorphous standards, and, at least initially, generally little information about the case and the defendant. It is to be expected that judges will look for similar cases or similar defendants for a model. And, as recent history has shown, the most aggressive and/or harsh prosecutorial practices employed in the prosecution of violent and drug crimes (lengthy sentences, seizure of assets, restriction of counsel fees, eavesdropping and the like) soon work their way into the area of white-collar prosecution. If the Strauss-Kahn bail conditions become a standard, we can expect severe and restrictive home confinement bail conditions for white-collar defendants.
Monday, April 18, 2011
I was annoyed by the result in Skilling—that the unquestionable honest-services error was “harmless” beyond a reasonable doubt. But at the time I couldn’t articulate exactly why. After the Bonds verdict, I can. In short, the Bonds verdict illustrates the silliness of the conclusion in Skilling that appellate courts can and should sit as the 13th, 14th, and 15th jurors, then use a cold record to speak for the first 12 jurors while pretending appellate courts have crystal balls that make this okay.
Compare the two cases. Skilling’s trial was infected by honest-services error: in the indictment; in the evidence; in the argument; and in the instructions. Kicking a door cracked open by the Supreme Court in Pulido, the Fifth Circuit swept this under the rug—finding harmlessness—by pretending it could satisfactorily predict that the jury would have convicted on all counts even absent the error. To be sure, this put the nail in the coffin for the Yates standard of review, which said that when multiple theories are charged and instructed and one is impermissible, reversal usually is automatic because it is “impossible to tell” whether the jury relied on the impermissible theory. The Yates standard respected the constitutional right to an impartial jury of one’s peers (which appellate courts concerned with finality and efficiency certainly are not); it recognized the limitations of an appellate court’s ability to predict the past under changed circumstances; and it acknowledged that juries are composed of human beings (not robots) who can be and often are influenced by intangibles not apparent in a paper record.
The Bonds verdict illustrates why eradicating the Yates standard was a bad idea—and indeed leads to a standard that infringes the right to an impartial jury of one’s peers. Bonds was charged with repeatedly lying to a grand jury, and obstruction of justice essentially based on repeatedly lying to that grand jury. With a proper indictment and charge, the impartial jury of Bonds’ peers hung on whether Bonds lied to the grand jury, but agreed that he obstructed by lying to the grand jury. There are hyper-technical legal ways to attempt to explain this—but in reality (where jurors live), the verdict makes little sense. And surely Bonds’ attorneys will file a motion challenging the sole conviction on this basis.
But more importantly to me, Bonds illustrates what was right with Yates and what is wrong with Skilling. Appellate court’s aren’t very good at predicting the past under changed circumstances. I’d venture to guess that if the Fifth Circuit judges who decided Skilling had placed bets on the Bonds verdict, they’d have batted 0 for 3 predicting hung counts on lying but conviction on obstruction based on lying.
I hope the defense bar won’t give up on the Yates standard.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Maura Dolan, LATimes, Barry Bonds Convicted of Obstruction of Justice in Steroids Case
Ben Forer, ABC News, Barry Bonds Convicted of Obstruction of Justice, but Jury Hung on Other Charges
Fox News, Bonds guilty of obstruction of justice
Juliet Macur, NYTimes, Bonds Guilty of Obstruction of Justice
Laird Harrison & Dan Levine, Reuters, U.S. jury finds Barry Bonds guilty on one count
Alan Duke, CNN, Bonds convicted of obstruction of justice
Why is it that the headlines tend to focus on the conviction and not the counts that did not result in a conviction (although it is noticed that ABC News did not do this). Was this long investigation and trial worth it? Is this how our tax dollars should be spent?
For background see here.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Actor Wesley Snipes has filed his cert petition in the Supreme Court. The two questions presented are:
1. Is an accused person deprived of the right under Article III and the Sixth Amendment to be tried only by a jury of the community where venue is proper, when factual questions determinative of whether venue has been correctly laid are determined solely by a jury selected in the place challenged by the defendant as incorrect?
2. Where venue is a contested factual issue in a criminal trial, does the government bear a burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt or only by a preponderance of the evidence?
Petition - Download WTS cert final 022811
Thursday, March 3, 2011
This afternoon breakout session on public corrruption was moderated by Joshua R. Hochberg (McKenna, Long & Aldridge).
Jack Smith, Chief of the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice,spoke about how his office was moving cases along. He stressed the importance of maintaining the deadlines that are established. He also stated he has not found a problem finding statutes to use when bringing state and local corruption cases post the Supreme Court's modification of 1346. He said that other statutes are available to bring conflict of interest cases.
Robert M. Cary, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Williams & Connolly LLP, noted the lack of transparency in discovery. Until there is an enforceable rule, it will be a problem.
Laura A. Miller, Nixon Peabody LLP, said that "successful representation is when my name and my client's name does not appear in the press."
Patrick M. Collins, Perkins Coie LLP questioned why the government can't go the extra mile and have open file discovery.
The panel discussed the Speech & Debate Clause and how it can affect a case. They also looked at discovery issues - Laura Miller noted the lack of uniformity on discovery issues. She mentioned how in the "rocket docket" they receive Jencks material the Friday before trial. Jack Smith said that if it is close - turn it over.Jack Smith said they sometimes he will highlight documents for the defense. He recognized his duty to go through documents and find Brady material. Laura Miller noted that we should all work together to manage discovery. A final topic discussed was venue.
(esp)(blogging from San Diego)
Saturday, January 15, 2011
In commenting here Wednesday about former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle's shameful money laundering prosecution of Tom DeLay, I noted that:
"The election code conspiracy charge [against DeLay] was almost immediately thrown out because there was no such crime in existence in Texas, as Earle should have known, and as the state’s highest criminal court later confirmed."
R. K. Weaver sent in a comment disagreeing with my analysis. According to Weaver:
"While it is true that there is no express 'conspiracy' provision in the Election Code, there is a general 'conspiracy' provision in the Penal Code which, on its face, and historically was considered to apply to all crimes in Texas. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, an elected body that is entirely occupied by Republicans, held for the first time in the history of Texas law, and contrary to abundant precedent, that this provision was limited to Penal Code crimes and was not applicable to the thousands of crimes that exist outside the Penal Code. That decision is generally considered by Texas lawyers to be absurd on its face and blatantly political. Unfortunately, it is also not terribly uncommon. There is a good reason that this court is referred to as 'the clowns on the Colorado.'" [emphasis added].
"When Earle indicted DeLay for conspiracy to violate the criminal provisions of the Election Code he was acting on established and well known Texas legal principals. DeLay's victory before the Court of Criminal Appeals was more about the political landscape in Texas than about the state of the law. I anticipate that when the current case gets before that court they will once again carve a 'DeLay exception 'to the law." [emphasis added].
Weaver is mistaken.
Title 4, Section 15.02 of the Texas Penal Code is the general criminal conspiracy statute. In 1977, long before Tom DeLay's rise to prominence, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest court in Texas authorized to rule on criminal cases, held in Baker v. State, 547 S.W.2d 627 (Tex.Cr.App.1977), that Section 15.02 (the general conspiracy statute) could not be applied to a criminal offense defined by another law (that is, defined by a law located outside of the Penal Code) unless the other law explicitly referenced the Penal Code. The non-Penal Code offense at issue in Baker was the Texas Controlled Substances Act. Baker followed a similar holding in Moore v. State, 540 S.W.2d 140 (Tex.Cr.App. 1977), which had found Section 15.01 of the Penal Code, the general attempt statute, inapplicable to the Controlled Substances Act. Both rulings were based on a strict reading of Penal Code Section 1.03(b) which stated in part that “[t]he provisions of Titles 1, 2 and 3 of this code apply to offenses defined by other laws, unless the statute defining the offense provides otherwise.” Since the conspiracy and attempt statutes were contained in Title 4, they could not apply to the Controlled Substances Act, the Court of Criminal Appeals reasoned, unless the Controlled Substances Act provided otherwise. The Controlled Substances Act did not provide otherwise, and did not contain its own attempt or conspiracy provisions. (The Texas Legislature later amended the Controlled Substances Act and it now expressly references Title 4 Penal Code offenses.) Both Baker and Moore were written by Tom G. Davis, a widely respected mainstream jurist. Judge Davis was a Democrat, as were all of the judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals at the time. In reversing Baker’s conviction and ordering the prosecution dismissed, Davis ruled that “[t]he complaint and information in the instant case do not allege an offense against the laws of this state."
Baker was still the law in Texas in 2005, when Earle brought his indictment against DeLay, and had been the law for 28 years. The pertinent portions of the conspiracy statute (Section 15.02) and of Section 1.03(b) remained the same. Earle’s original indictment of Tom DeLay charged that DeLay conspired in October of 2002 to violate the Texas Election Code. The Election Code is not a part of the Penal Code. In 2002, the Election Code did not contain a conspiracy provision or reference or incorporate Section 15.02. In other words, under authority of Baker and Moore, one could not conspire to violate the Election Code. The Election Code was amended, effective September 1, 2003, to permit application of Title 4 offenses, including the Section 15.02 conspiracy statute. But the amended version could not be applied to DeLay’s alleged conduct without violating Ex Post Facto principles. Ergo, Earle’s original indictment of DeLay did not, in the words of Tom G. Davis, “allege an offense against the laws of this state.”
According to a story in the Washington Post, Earle did not learn that there might be a problem with the original charge until his assistants told him about it, shortly after the indictment was returned. How sad. The Penal Code went into effect in 1973. The Election Code was enacted in 1975. Earle was elected Travis County District Attorney in 1976. Baker was decided in 1977. DeLay was indicted in 2005. When Earle found out about his mistake, he did not drop the Election Code conspiracy charge, which would have been the right thing to do. He re-indicted DeLay, using a new grand jury under dubious circumstances, but kept the Election Code conspiracy charge in the indictment. The trial court properly threw it out. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed in a 5-4 opinion.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The Washington Post reports here on the three year prison sentence handed down Monday to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay by Texas state judge Pat Priest. DeLay was found guilty last November by an Austin jury of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering under Texas criminal statutes.
The prosecution of DeLay by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle and his successor has been nothing less than a travesty of justice. This is really not about Tom Delay. You can love him or you can hate him. It is instead about our collective glee whenever a person of an opposing ideology gets indicted.
Earle originally indicted DeLay for conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to violate the state election code. The election code conspiracy charge was almost immediately thrown out because there was no such crime in existence in Texas, as Earle should have known, and as the state’s highest criminal court later confirmed. The money laundering charge, and the conspiracy charge on which it is bottomed, should have never been brought either. Here’s why.
Delay's alleged laundering activity was accomplished through the writing of checks. DeLay was accused and convicted of knowingly conducting, supervising, and facilitating a transaction involving the "proceeds" of criminal activity in violation of the state money laundering statute, Texas Penal Code Section 34.02. In 2002, the year of the alleged offense, Section 34.01 of the Penal Code provided that "‘Proceeds’ meant "funds acquired or derived directly or indirectly from, produced through, or realized through an act." Section 34.01 defined "funds" as follows.
(A) coin or paper money of the United States or any other country that is designated as legal tender and that circulates and is customarily used and accepted as a medium of exchange in the country of issue;
(B) United States silver certificates, United States Treasury notes, and Federal Reserve System notes; and
(C) official foreign bank notes that are customarily used and accepted as a medium of exchange in a foreign country and foreign bank drafts."
So, in 2002 the "proceeds" of criminal activity meant "funds" acquired, derived, produced or realized through an act. "Funds" in turn included: coin or paper money designated as legal tender, circulating, and used as a medium of exchange; United States silver certificates, United States Treasury notes, and Federal Reserve System notes; and, official foreign bank notes used and accepted as a medium of exchange in a foreign country, and foreign bank drafts. Most conspicuously, "funds" did not include checks. This was no accident. The final version of the 1993 money laundering statute was far narrower than the draft first introduced in the Texas House of Representatives. The initial draft prohibited the knowing facilitation of a transaction involving "property" that was the "proceeds" of criminal activity. Property was defined broadly to cover tangible or intangible personal property as well as "a document, including money, that represents or embodies anything of value."
I am aware of no reported cases under the original Texas money laundering statute, prior to DeLay’s indictment, in which the proceeds of criminal activity were identified as checks. In the vast majority of the cases, the laundered proceeds consisted of currency. There were no reported cases even discussing whether a check could constitute laundered funds. The reason for this is obvious. Virtually no prosecutor in Texas thought that checks were "funds" under the old money laundering statute.
In 2005, the Texas Legislature amended the money laundering statute and broadened the definition of "funds" to include "currency or its equivalent including an electronic fund, personal check, bank check, traveler’s check, money order, bearer negotiable instrument, bearer investment security, bearer security, or certificate of stock in a form that allows title to pass on delivery." The House Research Organization’s analysis of the amendment stated that it would "broaden the definition of ‘funds’ to include money other than cash." The analysis also notes, in the "Supporters Say" section, that "[u]nder current law, prosecutors may not prosecute offenders for money-laundering if the offender received a form of money other than cash, such as checks or money orders. This is inadequate as it prevents prosecution under this statute in an array of cases." The new bill "would fix this problem by covering money received in a variety of forms other than cash." It gets even worse. Members of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle’s own staff helped in the drafting of the 2005 amendment!
Of course DeLay could not be prosecuted under the 2005 version of the statute, for conduct that allegedly occurred in 2002, without violating the Constitution’s ex post facto clause. But that sort of problem did not bother Earle. He simply used the 2002 version, even though nobody thought back then that "laundering" via checks constituted laundering under Section 34.02.
The case is now headed for the higher courts. Here’s hoping that one of them does the right thing.
Friday, November 12, 2010
According to a DOJ Press Release, after a trial by jury the court issued a sentence of "one year and one day in prison for intentionally accessing without authorization the e-mail account of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin." The sentence was also for a misdemeanor obstruction of justice conviction premised upon his "deletions of records and documents with the intent to impede an anticipated FBI investigation." This individual was found not guilty of wire fraud and the jury failed to "reach a verdict on the identity theft charge."
It is good to see a prosecution and punishment for computer related offenses for activity that infringes on the computer privacy of another. But one also has to wonder if there would have been any case but for the fact that the victim was Sarah Palin.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
As expected, Roger Clemens pled not guilty on Monday to charges of perjury, false statements, and obstruction of Congress. He is represented by two of the ablest white collar criminal defense attorneys in the country—Rusty Hardin of Houston and San Diego’s Mike Attanasio. I know these men and their work. They are stellar lawyers.
The government asked Judge Reggie Walton to make Clemens surrender his passport in order to reduce the risk of flight. Honest. They really did. Give me a break. Walton didn’t buy it.
It is generally assumed that Clemens could have taken five before Congress and was therefore foolish to testify and subject himself to possible perjury charges. I’m not completely convinced of this, since the activity Congress was investigating at the time appears to have been beyond the statute of limitations. How can you incriminate yourself by truthfully admitting to something that you can no longer be prosecuted for?
At any rate, Clemens appeared without a subpoena, so there was no question of him not testifying. His attorneys will be able to argue to the jury that he had everything to lose and nothing to gain by appearing and testifying. Ergo, he must have been telling the truth. This can be a powerful argument in skilled hands, particularly in front of a DC jury, but it is better not to be forced to make it at all-better not to be indicted in the first place.
Roger's dilemma is the dilemma of the client with exposure, even limited exposure, who cannot or will not do the prudent thing and shut the hell up. It is best not to testify under oath, or even talk to the government, if you face potential criminal prosecution. Just ask Martha Stewart. But some high profile clients cannot take the perceived damage to their reputations involved in invoking the privilege. Clemens had the example of Mark McGwire in front of him. McGwire’s reputation was permanently and severely damaged by his refusal, on Fifth Amendment grounds, to answer a Congressional panel’s questions.
I know, I know; the privilege protects the innocent as well as the guilty. But nobody believes that in television land. Had Clemens publicly invoked the privilege, he would have been scarred for life. And he is not some dime-a-dozen, $40 million bonus CEO. He is one of the immortals.
The reputational dilemma is not confined to high-profile clients or the decision to invoke the Fifth Amendment. As a prosecutor, I saw defendants refuse to take plea offers, including misdemeanors with no jail time, because they could not admit wrongdoing to a spouse or child. It is a reminder that the strategy and tactics of criminal defense work are not always confined to logical analysis. The human, emotional element is ever present.
August 31, 2010 in Celebrities, Congress, Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Martha Stewart, News, Perjury, Privileges, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Sports, Statutes | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
Thursday, August 19, 2010
The Washington Post story is here and has a link to the indictment. Nothing yet up on PACER. Clemens is charged in six counts with perjury, false statements, and obstruction of Congress.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting here that baseball great Roger Clemens will soon be indicted by a federal grand jury for perjury.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The former Governor of Illinois is convicted on one Section 1001 count while the jury hangs on the other 23 charges. The jury hangs on all counts against Blago's brother. The Los Angeles Times has the story here. When the testimony wrapped up two weeks ago, Esquire asked its reporter John Bohrer to pretend he was a juror and opine on the outcome. Bohrer's analysis of the evidence is here. In a remarkable bit of prescience, Bohner noted that, "the Government couldn't close the deal. And that's why I'm voting to acquit." Bohrer still hated Blago, but did not feel that he belonged in prison or was worth the expense to prosecute. "I'll hand it to the prosecution on one of these charges: It does seem like he stone-cold lied to the FBI when they questioned him about whether he mixed state business with fundraising." Pretty close call. Pretty amazing.
Monday, August 16, 2010
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' most prestigious award is the Robert C. Heeney Memorial Award, established in 1981 in honor of Heeney, NACDL's 18th President. According to NACDL's website, the Heeney Award "is given annually to the one criminal defense attorney who best exemplifies the goals and values of the Association, and the legal profession." Past winners have included such giants in our profession as Albert Krieger, Barry Tarlow, Nancy Hollander, Barry Scheck, Barbara Bergman, Gerry Goldstein, Lisa Wayne, and Jeffrey Fisher.
This past Saturday in Toronto, at its annual convention, the NACDL gave the 2010 Heeney Award to Ellen S. Podgor. I can't think of anyone more deserving. Congratulations, Professor Podgor!
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Wesley Snipes remains free despite the Government's attempt to revoke his bail. Additionally, the court is allowing the defense the opportunity to file a motion for a new trial and has outlined the briefing schedule for the defense and government.
Court's Order -Download 533_OrdHoldingUnderAdvise 080510
(esp) (blogging from Los Angeles)
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Watching a part of NBC's Today Show of the interview with Richard Hatch (Survivor) (for background see here) and then hearing that he is arrested shortly thereafter, certainly has a chilling effect. Hatch, on house arrest, did an interview with the media. Listening to Hatch, the media, and his attorney, it sounds like permissions had been granted to do this interview (see here) but I have no information to confirm whether it was or was not. And why shouldn't an interview be allowed - after all even those in prison should be entitled to some First Amendment rights. Is this related to prison security? And if so, does it make a difference that he is no longer in prison? Or was this one of the conditions of this house arrest? And if he violated one of the conditions of his house arrest, why would he chance this now?
Shortly after the interview, the media reports that he was taken from his home back to prison. What is problematic here is that during the interview he not only proclaims his innocence but also claims that anti-gay bias drove this prosecution.
This latter claim needs to be investigated, and an investigation that occurs apart from DOJ individuals associated with the past administration. When someone is on the back end of their prison time (doing house arrest), the last thing they would want to do is jeopardize their ability to return to society. Someone needs to look at whether different treatment is being given to gay collars.
See Today MSNBC.com, ‘Survivor’ Richard Hatch is back behind bars -Mere hours after TODAY interview, reality show star taken into custody; see also Matt Caputo, Daily News, 'Survivor's' Richard Hatch arrested after Today Show with Matt Lauer; says anti-gay bias drove feds
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Actor Wesley Snipes has been granted oral argument in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Snipes was convicted of misdemeanor tax counts and found not guilty of other conspiracy and tax fraud counts following a jury trial (see here). The oral argument is scheduled for November 2009. Last year (September - September reporting period) less than 16% of all Eleventh Circuit criminal appeals were disposed of on the merits following oral argument (1258 total criminal cases, 1059 terminated after submission on the briefs, and 199 terminated after oral argument see here). Representing Snipes are Philadelphia area Attorney Peter Goldberger, former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Carmen Hernandez, Daniel Meachum (of Atlanta), and Linda Moreno (of Tampa). For a discussion of one of the issues likely to be raised on appeal, see here.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Defendant Wesley Snipes made a Motion for Limited Travel for Work Obligations. He sought permission to travel outside the United States for work on two films (Gallowwalker and Game of Death). The government objected to this post trial bail "on the grounds that Defendant Snipes traveled to Dubair, United Arab Emirates, in late November 2008 without obtaining prior permission from the Court." The court acknowledged that Snipes had violated his conditions of release for several reasons including "failing to notify his Pretrial Services Officer when his trip to Bangkok was canceled." But as the court noted, "[w]hile it does appear that on two occasions Defendant Snipes exceeded his travel conditions as set forth in his terms and conditions of release and the Court's July 2, 2008 Order, it is also true as pointed out in Defendant Snipes' moving papers that he has never failed to appear at the many proceedings in this case where his presence was required." In the end, the court granted the motion but did place restrictions on Snipes.
Court's Order - Download 520_OrdGrantTrav 033109
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Chronicle of Higher Education has a piece that names the institutions for some of what they call "disgraced alums." To be evenhanded, they couple this with a recognition of a famous grad of the institution. See here (subscription required).
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Conrad Black writes from a U.S. prison in Florida a piece titled, From my cell I scent the reeking soul of US justice. It appears in the Sunday Times (UK). Perhaps the most interesting aspect of his piece is his evaluation of the U.S. grand jury process. I also recommend reading the comments following the column. If these comments are representative of thoughts throughout the world, then DOJ has a lot of work ahead on its international relations. Interestingly, Doug Berman's Sentencing Blog here, is getting a different set of comments to this piece.
(esp)(w/ a hat tip to Brenda Rossini)