August 19, 2010
Roger Clemens Indicted
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.
Clemens to be Charged?
The Wall Street Journal is reporting here that baseball great Roger Clemens will soon be indicted by a federal grand jury for perjury.
August 02, 2010
House Ethics Committee Accuses Representative Maxine Waters Of Violating Ethics Rules
No details on the specific allegations. The Wall Street Journal news alert is here.
July 20, 2010
Talk About the Dodd-Frank Act
Check out Macia Coyle's article in the National LJ (law.com), Corporate Sector Sounds the Alarm Over Financial Reform's 'Bounty' System as it highlights whistleblower provisions in the forthcoming financial reform package. But one can also expect some new penalty provisions. NACDL has a list of some of the items that were included in drafts of the legislation here. On the NACDL website here it states "[t]hese new offenses, if enacted into law, will further explode the federal criminal code, which already contains an estimated 4,450 criminal offenses."
December 10, 2009
Senate Judiciary Hearing on Financial Crisis
Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a full committee hearing on "Mortgage Fraud, Securities Fraud, and the Financial Meltdown: Prosecuting Those Responsible." Testifying at the hearing were: Assistant AG Lanny Breuer, Director Enforcement Division SEC Robert Khuzami, and FBI Assistant Director Kevin Perkins. One can listen to the hearing here. The opening speaker, Lanny Breuer (see written testimony here) spoke about the new Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (see here for background). In his written statement he says that "Since 2002, the Department has obtained approximately 1,300 corporate fraud convictions, including convictions of more than 200 corporate chief executives or presidents, more than 120 vice presidents, and more than 50 chief financial officers." He also gave examples of the coordinated efforts of mortgage fraud prosecutions stating:
"Operation "Malicious Mortgage," conducted last year, included charges against more than 400 defendants in cases across the nation. Operation "Quick Flip" in 2005 featured a nationwide takedown of mortgage fraud cases charging a total of approximately 155 defendants. Operation "Continued Action" in 2004 targeted mortgage fraud and other schemes in more than 150 cases in more than 35 states."
Robert Khuzami, speaking next outlined some of the recent initiatives at the SEC. The final speaker from the FBI, Kevin Perkins, spoke about a wide array of conduct talking about matters related to Madoff, Petters, and others. (see written testimony here) He spoke about a new proactive approach being taken to financial fraud. The approach he spoke about highlighted investigation.
See also David Ingram, National LJ, law.com, Senators Impatient With Fraud Prosecutions
November 13, 2009
Breaking News: William Jefferson Sentenced to 13 Years
Guest Blogger: Tiffany M. Joslyn, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has sentenced ex-congressman William Jefferson to 13 years in prison for his conviction on 11 counts of public corruption. See breaking news coverage below:
October 02, 2009
NACDL's 5th Annual Defending the White Collar Case Seminar - "Perfecting Your Panel--Tips from the Experts on Jury Consulting & Selection," Friday, October 2, 2009
Guest Blogger: Shana-Tara Regon, Director, White Collar Crime Policy, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Moderator: Abbe David Lowell
Picking up where he left off in the hypothetical from yesterday’s panel on public corruption cases, Abbe David Lowell closed NACDL’s 5th Annual White Collar Crime conference by moderating a panel on jury selection. Joining Mr. Lowell was Julie Blackman, Deborah Starr, the Hon. Noel Hillman and William Kettlewell.
Panelists first addressed the issue of a defense lawyer’s desire to prevent or reverse bad publicity in the broad sense, as opposed to a more focused approach on learning all that is possible about the actual people who are prospective jurors.
Judge Hillman discussed what might be his response to hypothetical leaks in a grand jury investigation, outlining what kinds of factors would lead him to judicially intervene, while Mr. Kettlewell addressed the pros and cons of engaging in a war of motions related to grand jury leaks.
Panelists specifically addressed the issue of whether and how to have aggressive “dueling” press conferences or other press strategies after the public announcement of an indictment of your client. Ms. Starr discussed the value of assessing how to engage with “social media” to help shape a counterattack, in order to help manage public perception. Drawing a laugh, Julie Blackman pointed out how judges are now instructing jurors “not to Google, not to blog and not to Twitter”—even when those judges don’t even understand what any of those terms mean.
The panelists pondered how a lawyer can assess whether their client is capable of getting a fair trial in a particular jurisdiction and when and how to consider moving a trial. Specifically, there was a discussion involving the use of email or phone community attitude surveys or mini “mock trials” that set forth the specific facts of your case, and how such tools can help assess the strengths and weakness of your case.
Ms. Blackman explained that these kinds of surveys are very helpful in helping a lawyer prepare arguments and witnesses for cases and have proven to be as predictive as political polling. Judge Hillman discussed the circumstances under which he might be willing consider a venue change. Mr. Kettlewell discussed the use of written questionnaires and the benefits of attorney voir dire, with Judge Hillman weighing in on the different ways that a court handles such matters, including what he perceives to be the benefits and efficiencies of a judge conducting individual voir dire in criminal cases. Judge Hillman prefers to conduct his own voir dire, as informed by questions that lawyers have previously submitted to him. He likes to do his questioning and stated: “I worry about people who want to be on a jury.” Ms. Blackman and Ms. Starr discussed how particular questions are useful in elucidating a potential juror’s prejudices and personality, as well as questions that might be useful in predicting outcomes.
Judge Hillman discussed how he might respond in a hypothetical situation involving a prosecutor’s claim that the defense was attempting to “taint” a jury pool by using community attitude surveys or trial simulations. He expressed the view that if such efforts were being conducted by defense lawyers, he’d like to know about it so that he can be sure that no one who communicated with the defense ultimately made it onto the jury.
Ms. Starr discussed the incredible depth of information available about potential jurors now—including social views, voting records etc. Ms. Blackman discussed how this specific information about your jurors can be entered into a sophisticated algorithm that correlates to the results of your telephone survey or trial simulation, resulting in highly predicative information. Judge Hillman expressed a concern about the mining of so much information about individuals and whether that will further discourage jurors from fulfilling a very important constitutional role in the process.
Questions and comments from the audience helped tease out the panelists’ views on which tools are the most effective if costs preclude the use of the full toolbox, and also touched upon the possible danger of information learned in the various polling processes from being leaked to the prosecution. This panel brought a close to a day and a half of incredible presentations by an unparalleled faculty. If you weren’t able to join us this time, I certainly hope you will consider joining us next year. And if any of the particular panels that have been blogged about sound like they address issues that you are dealing with in your practice, don’t despair—high quality audio recordings will be shortly available for purchase here. Stay tuned for future programming news at www.nacdl.org.
NACDL's 5th Annual Defending the White Collar Case Seminar - "Capitol Chaos--What's Happening in D.C.?," Friday, October 2, 2009
Guest Blogger: Ross H. Garber, Shipman & Goodwin (Hartford, CT)
Shana Regon, NACDL’s Director of White Collar Crime Policy, provided an update on NACDL’s efforts on Capitol Hill. She began by talking about NACDL advocacy on attorney-client privilege and attorney work product protection issues, particularly related to DOJ policy on requesting waivers of the privilege and protection from cooperating companies. She also talked about proposed legislation, HR 1947, that would regulate deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) and non-prosecution agreements (NPAs). Among the provisions of HR 1947 are those that would require court approval of DPAs and NPAs and require posting of all DPAs and NPAs on the DOJ website. Shana also talked about NACDL’s efforts to educate Congress about overcriminalization including ambiguous mens rea standards, mandatory minimums, the federalization of criminal conduct and the adoption of overlapping statutes covering the same conduct.
Supreme Court Update
Kathleen Sullivan of Quinn Emanuel spoke about some recent white collar cases decided by the Supreme Court in the past session: Diaz v. Massachusetts; Yaeger v. United States; and Nijhawan v. Holder. In Malendez-Diaz, the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision that the confrontation clause applies to an affidavit from a crime lab analyst because it is testimonial in nature. Kathleen emphasized that this decision would apply to any forensic experts. In Yaeger, the court held that when a jury acquits on some counts and hangs on others, the government may not re-try the defendant on any of the counts. In Nijhawan the Court interpreted the deportation statute for aggravated felonies with respect to crimes of fraud or deceit involving more than $10,000. The Court held that the $10,000 requirement is met based on the facts of the case, even if the underlying aggravated felony statute itself does not require a $10,000 loss
Kathleen noted that in this session, the Court is considering several honest services cases. Among the issues the Court will tackle is whether the mail fraud statute criminalizes mere ethical missteps. Among the honest services cases are United States v. Weyrauch, in which an Alaska legislator was convicted of soliciting legal work from clients when he was in a position to benefit clients and not disclosing the work. The question posed in this case is whether the government must prove violation of disclosure requirements otherwise required by state law.
In a case involving Conrad Black, the Supreme Court will evaluate whether there must be an intent to and likelihood of depriving a corporation of a business opportunity for an executive to be found guilty of the honest services provision of the mail fraud statute. Kathleen said she expects these cases to be decided for the defendants on narrow statutory grounds.
October 01, 2009
NACDL's 5th Annual Defending the White Collar Case Seminar - "Pay to Play - The Current Wave of Public Corruption Cases," Thursday, October 1, 2009
Guest Blogger: Linda Friedman Ramirez, P.A. (Tampa St. Petersburg, FL)
Panel Moderator: Abbe David Lowell
NACDL's 5th Annual White Collar Crime Conference kicked off today with the Pay to Play
panelists jumping into a thorough discussion of the key issues in the
defense of a public corruption case via a hypothetical created by panel
moderator Abbe Lowell.
The panel agreed that attorneys are needed for all individuals and
entities subpoenaed. The first question is whether joint defense
agreements are more problematic than helpful. There seemed to be a
consensus that there might be some benefits, particularly when working
with attorneys with whom there has been no prior experience or quirky
clients, but most panelists expressed reservations about their use.
Next up - the panelists discussed the subpoena for records relating
to the legislative process and the Speech and Debate privilege. Who
asserts? The panel propounded on the importance of collaboration
between the attorney for Alice and the attorney for House. Also, how to
handle keeping back documents that may be privileged and the concept of
using a privilege log? TheDOJ’s view of the Speech and Debate clause is in a great deal of flux, and DOJ’s view has changed radically. Further, if it is a federal subpoena does this change anything? And how does the counsel for Funhouse
handle its own subpoena? The four panelists explored the issues
relevant to subpoenas for contribution records and the intersection
with the First Amendment.
Another important issue for practitioners is how to respond to precharge or pretrial publicity in high profile cases, including responding to questions by investigative reporters. Clients often have a strong desire to speak to the public. Different responses from the panelists: give clients a limited script; have the attorney act as spokesperson -- though that raises the concern for attorneys of moving into the realm of public relations; hiring surrogates.
Also, what happens if a client wants to make his case to the prosecutor? Is this a good strategy? Of course the most important issues are whether the facts are sufficient for a prosecution pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 1346? Is conflict of interest + non-disclosure enough under this statute? This was the meat of the panel and the discussion was exciting and demonstrated the knowledge of the panel. Also, Moderator Abbe Lowell injected into the discussion 18 U.S.C. 666, which is the jurisdictional statute for prosecution of offenses committed by state public officials and the requirement of a connection with the receipt of federal funds 18 U.S.C 666 (b).
By the close of the panel it was clear that an hour and a half was not nearly enough time to explore this topic!
August 01, 2009
Overcriminalization: An Area That Needs Attention
Several groups were on the hill this past week for a hearing on “Over-criminalization of Conduct and Over-Federalization of Criminal Law” before the U.S. House of Representatives Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee. The coalition includes an odd mix of groups from the ABA, ACLU and NACDL to the Heritage Foundation, Washington Legal Foundation and Federalist Society. The very fact that such a wide array of groups are agreeing that change is needed, is important. To give a flavor of the arguments, here is the NACDL statement and testimony. An overhaul of the federal criminal justice system is needed, and one of the deficiencies of the existing system is that there is overcriminalization and overfederalization. Lets hope the strong showing by so many different constituencies moves this issue forward.
June 14, 2009
Will There Be Change in the US Criminal Justice System
The US Senate, Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing this past week (June 11th) titled, "Exploring the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009." (see here). Panel Two included Chief William Bratton - LA Police Dept., Pat Nolan - VP Prison Fellowship, Professor Charles Ogletree - Harvard, and Brian Walsh of the Heritage Foundation. The panel discussed issues related to massive incarceration, including the incarceration of the mentally ill. Chief William Bratton noted how the "American system of justice is overworked." Professor Charles Ogletree said that we need to retire the phrase "a war on crime" and replace it with a phrase "be smart on crime." Brian Walsh emphasized that crime reform should not be driven by partisan politics and he also stressed the importance of examining overcriminalization issues. Pat Nolan gave some concrete examples of how to reform incarceration practices to save money and achieve better results.
Listening to this hearing, sent the important message that we need to stop thinking just retribution, and thinking wisely about how to reduce recidivism. It was particularly good to see that some were mentioning the importance of distinguishing crimes and criminals. With the increased white collar sentences, it is hoped that if a President's Commission is established it will look closely at how best to treat white collar and corporate offenders.
May 28, 2009
Fraud Enforcement Recovery Act of 2009 - False Claims Act Provisions
FERA makes many changes to the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. ss 3729-3733. FriedFrank (with many thanks to John T. Bose) has done a wonderful analysis here (Download 090521), and has a redline copy here that lets one see the changes that were made to these statutes. Finally, the statute with the provisions incorporated is here (again, thanks to FriedFrank).
When examining the money laundering statute changes (here), it was apparent that a key change was to address the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Santos case. The changes in the False Claims Act also address some Court rulings, most noteably Allison Engine Co. v. United States ex re. Sanders. FERA, overall, makes the government job of obtaining convictions and getting civil remedies easier. The False Claim Act provisions do that with a reduced intent requirement. But the government and relators do not get everything here, as FERA provides for a materiality requirement.(see Download 090521, supra).
May 27, 2009
Fraud Enforcement Recovery Act of 2009 - The Money Laundering Provisions
In recent years, some white collar cases have had money laundering charges included in the Indictment. Some may believe that the addition of money laundering counts is used as leverage to secure a plea from the accused. The Fraud Enforcement Recovery Act of 2009 includes changes to both sections 1956 and 1957 of title 18, the money laundering statutes. The changes are as follows:
SPECIFIED UNLAWFUL ACTIVITY.—
(1) MONEY LAUNDERING.—Section 1956(c) of title 18, United States Code, is amended—
(A) in paragraph (8), by striking the period and inserting ‘‘; and’’; and
(B) by inserting at the end the following:
‘‘(9) the term ‘proceeds’ means any property derived from or obtained or retained, directly or indirectly, through some form of unlawful activity, including the gross receipts of such activity.’’.
(2) MONETARY TRANSACTIONS.—Section 1957(f) of title 18, United States Code, is amended by striking paragraph (3) and inserting the following:
‘‘(3) the terms ‘specified unlawful activity’ and ‘proceeds’ shall have the meaning given those terms in section 1956 of this title.’’
It is obvious in reading the language that Congress was reacting to the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Santos, where a plurality (Scalia, Souter, Ginsberg, and Thomas) found that the rule of lenity applied because of a failure to define the term "proceeds" in the statute. Justice Stevens went with these four justices, but limited his decision, saying he would not have ruled this way if the case involved contraband or organized crime. The Court, therefore, held that "proceeds referred to "profits" and not "receipts." A four person dissent (Breyer, Alito, Roberts, and Kennedy) believed that proceeds should include the total amount brought in. This Congressional amendment to the statute endorses the position taken by the dissent and provides a definition of what is meant by the term "proceeds."
But there are several points to note here. Even though the new legislation clarifies the statute, thus voiding any need to resort to the Rule of Lenity in defining "proceeds" and also resolves future cases on which crimes are covered by the Santos decision (an issue that several district and circuit courts have had to contend with), it may still allow defense counsel to make merger arguments. As stated by Justice Stevens in his concurring opinion in Santos
"Allowing the Government to treat the mere payment of the expense of operating an illegal gambling business as a separate offense is in practical effect tantamount to double jeopardy, which is particularly unfair in this case because the penalties for money laundering are substantially more sever than those for the underlying offense of operating a gambling business."
It also leaves open the issue of how this statute applies to mail fraud when the crime is not complete and whether a sentence can be enhanced when the predicate offense and the money laundering merge. Congress was clearly concerned about the merger issue as the amendment includes a specific statement "Sense of the Congress and Report Concerning Required Approval for Merger Cases" that states:
(1) Sense of Congress - It is the sense of the Congress that no prosecution of an offense under section 1956 or 1957 of title 18, United States Code, should be undertaken in combination with the prosecution of any other offense, without prior approval of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division, or the relevant United States Attorney, if the conduct to be charged as ‘‘specified unlawful activity’’ in connection with the offense under section 1956 or 1957 is so closely connected with the conduct to be charged as the other offense that there is no clear delineation between the two offenses.
(2) REPORT.—One year after the date of the enactment of this Act, and at the end of each of the four succeeding one-year periods, the Attorney General shall report to the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary on efforts undertaken by the Department of Justice to ensure that the review and approval described in paragraph (1) takes place in all appropriate cases. The report shall include the following:
(A) The number of prosecutions described in paragraph (1) that were undertaken during the previous one-year period after prior approval by an official described in paragraph (1), classified by type of offense and by the approving official.
(B) The number of prosecutions described in paragraph (1) that were undertaken during the previous one-year period without such prior approval, classified by type of offense, and the reasons why such prior approval was not obtained.
(C) The number of times during the previous year in which an approval described in paragraph (1) was denied.
May 25, 2009
Fraud Enforcement Recovery Act of 2009
Passed by both the House and Senate, the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 (FERA) was signed it into law by the President with the following statement -
Today I have signed into law S. 386, the "Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009." This Act provides Federal investigators and prosecutors with significant new criminal and civil tools to assist in holding accountable those who have committed financial fraud. These legislative enhancements will help the Department of Justice to combat mortgage fraud, securities and commodities fraud, and related offenses, and to protect taxpayer money that has been expended on recent economic stimulus and rescue packages. With the tools that the Act provides, the Department of Justice and others will be better equipped to address the challenges that face the Nation in difficult economic times and to do their part to help the Nation respond to this challenge.
Section 5(d) of the Act requires every department, agency, bureau, board, commission, office, independent establishment, or instrumentality of the United States to furnish to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a legislative entity, any information related to any Commission inquiry. As my Administration communicated to the Congress during the legislative process, the executive branch will construe this subsection of the bill not to abrogate any constitutional privilege.
THE WHITE HOUSE,
May 20, 2009.
There are many important provisions related to white collar crime in this new law, including changes in the Civil False Claims area, changes to the money laundering statute, areas related to TARP, and changes to a host of statutes like 18 U.S.C. ss 1014, 1031, 1348, and 1956. Over the next week I will be offering commentary on what FERA says and how it changes the prosecution and defense of white collar matters.
March 02, 2009
NACDL & Heritage: Together in Bed Again
The NACDL and Heritage joined forces together again, this time opposing the Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act (S49) (see here). (see previously the opposition to S. 386, the Fraud Enforcement Recovery Act here). "Although the two organizations are, as they note in their letter, often 'on opposite ends of the liberal-to-conservative spectrum,' the two organizations agree that federal prosecutors already have all the tools they need (and far more) to prosecute public corruption."
(esp)(w/ a hat tip to Jack King)
February 23, 2009
Senate Happenings - Criminalizing the Filing of False Fishing Licenses
An executive business meeting is set for the Senate Judiciary Committee for February 26, 2009. On the agenda are S. 386 - Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act and S. 49 - Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act (see here). The most troublesome aspect of this latter bill is its attempt to provide increased prosecutorial power on mail and wire fraud offenses. Section 3 is titled, "Application of Mail and Wire Fraud Statutes to Licenses and Other Intangible Rights." It looks like an attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Cleveland, where the Court held that licenses were not property for purposes of mail fraud. Imagine this scenario - a person answers a question incorrectly on their mailed application for a fishing license. Assuming other aspects of the statute being met, the government would now be able to prosecute them federally for mail fraud. Adding the words "or any other thing of value" might not include licenses, but the title of this provision sure is an attempt to try to increase prosecutorial power to include them. There needs to be some limits to this already near limitless statute, and this provision is not moving in the correct direction.
(esp)(w/ a hat tip to Tiffany Joslyn of NACDL)
February 15, 2009
The Proposed New Fraud Act - Both NACDL and Heritage Voice Opposition
Clearly there is a need for increased regulation to stop fraudulent activities. In this past year, there have been too many innocent victims of fraud. The legislative response, however, is disappointing. As I told Chisun Lee at ProPublica, here, it uses a hammer to hit the wrong nail.
Parts of the new legislation are promising. For example, increased funding to monitor and detect fraud would be wonderful. Admittedly Senator Patrick Leahy when introducing the bill notes that "homes mortgages were packaged together and turned into securities that were bought and sold in largely unregulated markets on Wall Street." But the next paragraphs do not logically follow from this statement. That is, adding new federal legislation and increasing penalties are part of the proposed legislation. New laws, however, are not the answer - especially when there were already laws on the books to meet the alleged conduct. What needs to happen here is stopping this misconduct before victims suffer. There needs to be increased regulation and oversight of that regulation to stop those who try to engage in fraudulent activities.
It is interesting to see the National Association of Criminal Defense (NACDL) and Heritage Foundation issuing a joint statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee showing their opposition to the proposed expansion of federal criminal law in S. 386, the Fraud Enforcement Recovery Act.
Heritage-NACDL Letter -Download nacdlheritage_ltr_to_senate_judiciary__fraud_enforcement__recovery_act_s__386.pdf
Addendum - Rita Glavan, Acting Assistant AG- Criminal Division presents the government position here - Download 2009-3057-1.pdf
March 31, 2008
Congressperson's Office Covered By "Speech & Debate Clause"
The Supreme Court refused to re-examine a D.C. Circuit court opinion regarding an issue that arose following a search of Louisiana Representative William Jefferson's office. The D.C. Circuit had ruled that the search was improper as it violated the U.S. Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause. The Court of Appeals held that "[t]he search of Congressman Jefferson’s office must have resulted in the disclosure of legislative materials to agents of the Executive. Indeed, the application accompanying the warrant contemplated it." (see decision) In letting stand the D.C. Circuit Court opinion, despite a government appeal (see here and here), the Supreme Court was not willing to wrestle with the contours of what is included within the Constitution's Speech and Debate Clause.
The DOJ is not pleased with this decision (see here). But in many ways this is an important decision. Although the government may feel it will make their investigations/prosecutions more difficult, it is a crucial position in light of the political happenings seen not too long ago in DOJ hiring and firing. In order for there to be a proper balancing of power, it is critical that the executive branch cannot be invading the turf of the legislature. The Supreme Court's decision not to re-examine the lower court ruling does not open the door as a license to do criminal business in legislative offices. Rather it lifts the possibility of political retaliation in our government.
March 05, 2008
How Not to Ask Questions
Perjury is definitely in the news these days, with the FBI investigating Roger Clemens for his statements before a Congressional committee and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's testimony in a whistleblower lawsuit denying a relationship with an aide under review by the local prosecutors office. One of the highest profile perjury cases involves home run king (and apparently unwanted free agent) Barry Bonds, whose charges was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston because of flaws in the indictment. Judge Illston ordered the release of the transcript of Bonds' grand jury testimony in 2003 (available below) that now reveals the entirety of the nearly three-hour examination by two Assistant U.S. Attorneys.
While the indictment presents Bonds in a bad light by isolating specific instances of allegedly false answers, skimming through the full transcript shows just how disorganized the prosecutors seemed to be, and how at least one of them couldn't ask a simple question. Whether it was nervousness or perhaps being intimidated by Bonds, the questions come across almost like a stream of consciousness approach to the examination. Here's just one example of the kind of questions Bonds faced: "Let me ask the same question about Greg at this point, we'll go into this in a bit more detail, but did you ever get anything else from Greg besides advice or tips on your weight lifting and also the vitamins and the proteins that you already referenced?" (Pg. 23) Huh? Understanding that a transcript does not necessarily convey the full flavor of the actual interchanges, in reading through the questioning I'm struck by how convoluted the questions are, punctuated throughout with "I mean," "you know," and similar distracting phrases.
What makes perjury so difficult to prove is that the allegedly false answer is not necessarily the most important thing. As the Supreme Court noted in Bronston v. United States, 409 U.S. 352 (1973), "Precise questioning is imperative as a predicate for the offense of perjury." Among the questions recited in the original indictment was this model of obfuscatory inquiry: "So, I guess I got to ask the question again, I mean, did you take steroids? And specifically this test the [sic] is in November 2000. So I'm going to ask you in the weeks and months leading up to November 2000 were you taking steroids . . . or anything like that?"
Prosecutors will no doubt come back with a new indictment of Bonds in the next couple weeks, one which is honed down and focused on just single questions and answers to avoid the duplicity problem that led to the dismissal. But they can only work with the transcript they have, and finding a clear question -- and answer -- may be quite a challenge. The questioning of Bonds was not a model of how to set a perjury trap, if that was the goal in having him testify. (ph)
March 01, 2008
Mukasey Refuses to Proceed Against Bolten & Miers
Professor Peter Henning here, had raised the issue of whether AG Mukasay would issue a contempt citation against Bolten and Miers. And we now know the answer. Dan Eggen of the Washington Post writes, Mukasay Refuses to Prosecute Bush Aides. It seems that Attorney General Mukasey is taking the position that Bolten and Miers refusal to comply with a congressional subpeona does not constitute a crime.
Check our Scotus Blog - Congress's Contempt Power: Law, History, Practice and Procedure
Talkleft in July wrote here
This places the ball back in the Congressional hands - and the issue will be whether they force the issue with Mukasey or move onto the courts for a remedy.