Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Stacked Deck? The SEC's Administrative Route

The New York Times' Gretchen Morgenson should be declared a national treasure. She continues to write about the financial crisis, and legal and regulatory issues related to the crisis, at a level far above most of her contemporaries. In today's New York Times she explains the administrative law process through which the SEC brings many of its enforcement actions against individuals. The Administrative Law Judges deciding the cases are SEC employees and appellate reversals are rare. Dodd-Frank expanded the kinds of cases that can be heard by the ALJs. All of this is known to the securities bar, but not to otherwise intelligent and informed lay readers, because hardly anyone ever writes about it. Morgenstern's story is here.

(wisenberg)

October 6, 2013 in Media, News, SEC, Securities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Wall Street Journal Takes Aim At Comey

by: Solomon L. Wisenberg

In what should be a surprise to no one, the Wall Street Journal editorial page today launched an attack on James Comey, President Obama's nominee to be the next FBI Director. The primary offenses? Comey's objection to the Bush Administration's illegal warrantless wiretapping and Comey's appointment of Patrick Fitzgerald as Special Counsel to investigate the Valerie Plame leak. The editorial is here. More commentary on this in the next few days.

Coming soon: Professor Podgor's analysis of the Second Circuit's opinion afffirming Raj Rajaratnam's conviction for insider trading violations.

(wisenberg)

June 24, 2013 in Current Affairs, Legal Ethics, Media, News, Plame Investigation, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Statutes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Freeh Report on Paterno Reaches Speculative But Reasonable Conclusion

Joe Paterno was buried a second time last week -- partly by a report of former judge and FBI Director Louis Freeh and partly by accounts like that of the New York Times, which in a four-column lead story headlined "Abuse Scandal Inquiry Damns Paterno and Penn State," wrote "Mr. Freeh's investigation makes clear that it was Mr. Paterno . . . who persuaded the university president and others not to report Mr. Sandusky to the authorities . . . ." (emphasis added).  See here.  A reading of the report, however, shows that its conclusions as to Paterno are based on hearsay, innuendo and surmise.  While a report such as the Freeh Report certainly need not be based on court-admissible testimony, if indeed the evidence referred to in the report constituted the sole basis for a criminal and/or civil charge against Paterno, the case undoubtedly would be thrown out and would not reach a jury.

The relevant evidence involving Paterno is as follows:

  • In May 1998, with respect to an allegation that Sandusky had showered with an eleven year-old on the Penn State campus, Tim Curley, the Penn athletic director, notified his superiors that he had "touched base" with Paterno about the incident and days later sent to them an email "Anything new in this department?  Coach [Paterno] is anxious to know where it stands."
  • In February 2001, after he observed Sandusky sexually molesting a youth in a Penn State shower room, Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant, reported the incident to Paterno, who told him, "You did what you had to do.  It is my job now to figure out what we want to do."  The following day, a Sunday, Paterno reported the incident to Curley and Gary Schultz, a Penn State vice-president.  Paterno waited a day or so not to "interfere with their weekend."
  • Later in the month, Graham Spanier, the Penn State president, Schultz and Curley devised an action plan which included reporting the incident to the state welfare agency.  A day or so later, Curley emailed Schultz and Spanier and said that he had changed his mind about the plan "after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe [Paterno] yesterday," and now felt that they should instead tell Sandusky to seek professional help and not report him to the welfare authorities unless he did not cooperate.

The first item, the 1998 Curley email, merely demonstrates that Paterno showed an interest in what was happening with reference to the 1998 incident, which ultimately was reported to both the welfare department and the local prosecutor and resulted in no findings or charges.  Paterno reportedly in 2011, after the incident involving Sandusky's 2001 conduct and the failure to report it to authorities raised public attention, denied that he was aware of the 1998 incident.  In fact, Paterno's testimony in the grand jury in which he purportedly denied any such knowledge was in response to an imprecise, general and unfocused question, and his answer was accordingly unclear.  Additionally, the reported statement denying any prior knowledge was by his "family" and not by him.

In any case, while a denial, if made directly by Paterno or even an authorized agent, might arguably be admissible in court as evidence of consciousness of guilt, such evidence is weak proof of guilt since even wholly blameless people often make false statements distancing themselves from wrongdoing.

The second item, Paterno's response to McQueary is by itself of little moment and says no more than that Paterno, having been apprised of the incident, would now have to figure out what he and the others will do.  Of course, one can read into that facially bland statement a more sinister meaning -- that Paterno intended to tell McQueary to remain silent.  Such a meaning, however, is supported only by surmise and suspicion.  The report also states that Paterno waited a day before reporting the information to Curley and Schultz so as not to "interfere with their weekends."  This one-day delay is not meaningful.

The third item, Curley's change of mind after "talking it over with Joe," might, not unreasonably, albeit with a considerable leap, be construed to indicate that Paterno suggested not reporting the incident to the authorities.  However, it might also be that Curley changed his mind on his own after airing his thoughts with Paterno and deciding that the earlier plan was not preferable.  It is, of course, also possible that whatever Curley wrote, his mention of discussions with Paterno (without any direct or indirect report of Paterno's own views) was an attempt by Curley to minimize or shift personal responsibility from himself.  In any case, any probative value this email has as to Paterno's intent is also based on speculation.

Freeh himself seems to recognize that his conclusions are far from "clear."  He mentions that Curley and Schultz contended that they acted "humanely" and sought "the best way to handle vague and troubling allegations," that Paterno had told a reporter he had "backed away and turned it over to . . . people I thought would have a little more expertise," and that Spanier had denied knowledge "Sandusky was engaged in any sexual abuse of children."

He then rejects these explanations and concludes, "Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, the Special Investigative Counsel finds that is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the University -- Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley -- repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from the authorities, the University's Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large" (emphasis added).  During a press conference specifically focusing on Paterno's culpability, Freeh, seemingly inconsistently with the qualified "available witness statements and evidence" language of the report, appeared to exaggerate, "There's a whole bunch of evidence here."  He continued, "And we're saying that the reasonable conclusion from that evidence is that [Paterno] was an integral part of this active decision to conceal" (emphasis added).

I tend to agree that Freeh's conclusion is the "more reasonable" hypothesis, but I do so based more on a visceral feeling and some understanding of Paterno's power and status at the university than an evidentiary basis.  The "facts" demonstrating Paterno's "active" role in the cover-up are insubstantial and equivocal.  The case against Paterno is, as a Scotch jury might say, "not proven."  Perhaps we should require more substantial proof before we topple Paterno's statue -- figuratively and actually.

(goldman)

July 17, 2012 in Celebrities, Current Affairs, Investigations, Media, News, Sports | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

FBI Investigates JPMorgan Chase Trading Loss. Why?

Here is a Huffington Post piece from several days ago on the FBI probe of JPMorgan Chase's $2 billion trading loss. Can anybody tell me what the crime is here? Doesn't there have to be a potential crime before the FBI investigates? Can somebody please identify that potential crime? The probe is a farce, and the mainstream press's failure to ask the most obvious question is par for the course.

(wisenberg)

May 23, 2012 in Investigations, Media | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Clemens Daily Wrap-Up

Here is the Houston Chronicle's take on today's proceedings in U.S. v. William Roger Clemens. Brian McNamee was allowed to testify on re-direct that he injected three other players with HGH. Judge Walton gave the jury a limiting instruction that the testimony could only be used to bolster McNamee's credibility--not to infer Clemens' guilt. Still, this was a significant break for the government.

I am now batting 0 for 2 in my most recent predictions. I predicted that Judge Walton would strike some of Andy Pettitte's testimony and that the judge would not let McNamee talk about injecting other players. So take this next observation wiht a grain of salt. To me, the jurors' questions at the end of each day show their skepticism regarding the government's case and the credibility of key government witnesses.

(wisenberg)

May 21, 2012 in Celebrities, Congress, Current Affairs, Judicial Opinions, Media, News, Obstruction, Perjury, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Judge Walton Keeps Out Prejudicial Material In Roger Clemens Trial

I mentioned in a recent post that Reggie Walton is a fair judge. That fairness was on display again yesterday in the Roger Clemens trial, when Walton prohibited federal prosecutors from introducing testimony and documents pertaining to Clemens' fat salary as a pitcher. Walton correctly concluded that the prejudicial effect of this evidence outweighed its supposed probative value. It is a very rare federal judge who will bar this kind of "lavish lifestyle" evidence. The government always wants it in, ostensibly to show that a defendant's alleged criminal conduct was part of an effort to maintain a lavish lifestyle. In reality, prosecutors simply want to prejudice the defendant in the eyes of jurors by showing them how rich he is, how "high-on-the-hog" he lives, and how different he is from you and me.

(wisenberg) 

May 9, 2012 in Celebrities, Congress, Current Affairs, Judicial Opinions, Media, News, Obstruction, Perjury | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Roger Clemens' Motion To Strike: 50-50 Doesn't Cut It

I'd say you had a pretty good week if you got a key government witness to agree there is a 50-50 chance he misheard or misunderstood a purportedly damning admission by your client. That's what happened last week (week one) in the Roger Clemens re-trial, through Mike Attanasio's cross of Andy Pettitte. This morning, team Clemens filed Defendant's Motion to Strike Portions of the Trial Testimony of Government Witness Andy Pettitte. The Motion is an excellent piece of work. The argument?

1. The threshold for establishing admissibility of a preliminary fact question under Federal Rule of Evidence 104 is preponderance of the evidence. Fifty-fifty doesn't cut it.

2. Under Federal Rule of Evidence 401, relevant evidence "means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Fifty-fifty doesn't cut it.

3. Even if relevant, the testimony's probative value is substantially outweighed, under Federal Rule of Evidence 403, by the "danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury." This is particularly true in light of the Government's statement to the jury, during its opening, that Clemens told Pettitte "he had used human growth hormone and that it helped him with recovery." The real-life fifty-fifty version on the stand didn't cut it.

4. Judge Walton specifically warned the parties before trial about making promises they couldn't keep in opening statements. He said that if it occurred here he would "not hesitate to tell this jury that they must totally disregard any such statements of that nature. I'll specifically identify what those statements were and tell them there was no evidence to that effect, and therefore, they cannot consider that in deciding this case." Judge Walton should make good on his promise, because fifty-fifty doesn't cut it.

Team Clemens also noted that the government could have revisited the conversation during re-direct, but deliberately skirted the issue.

My prediction is that this motion will be granted in some form. It certainly doesn't mean that Clemens is out of the woods. Ted Stevens' outstanding trial team won several motions during trial and Judge Sullivan gave Stevens some very scathing anti-government jury instructions--to no avail. (Of course, in the Stevens case, the government was deliberately hiding important exculpatory material.) But such an instruction will undoubtedly greatly benefit Clemens. It will essentially knock-out a key portion of the government's case.

Kudos to the defense team for an outstanding cross and an excellent motion. One of the nice things about this trial is that co-counsel Attanasio is finally getting some of the national media attention he has long deserved.

(wisenberg)

May 7, 2012 in Celebrities, Congress, Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Media, Obstruction, Perjury, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Another Deferred Prosecution - "NYCity Payroll Project Scandal" Company

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Strauss-Kahn Involved Again in Sex Case

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is once again in trouble with the law in relation to an investigation involving sexual activity.  Strauss-Kahn was detained overnight in Lille, France, for questioning in a French investigation related to an alleged prostitution ring that purportedly supplied women for sex parties with Strauss-Kahn in Brussels, Paris and Washington.

Strauss-Kahn contends that he had no reason to believe that the women at these parties were prostitutes.  His French lawyer bared that defense to French radio in December, "People are not always clothed at these parties.  I challenge you to tell the difference between a nude prostitute and a classy lady in the nude."  Reuters article, see here.  This lack of scienter defense ironically appears to be the converse of what many believed would have been Strauss-Kahn's defense had the New York case in which he was accused of sexual assault gone to trial.  In that case, it was expected that his defense would have been that he did believe that the woman in question was a prostitute.

The investigation, in which eight people have been charged, involves alleged misuse of corporate funds to pay for the services of the prostitutes.  Engaging prostitutes is not illegal in France (although it is in Washington), but if the investigators determine that Strauss-Kahn had sex with prostitutes he knew had been paid for out of company funds, he might be charged as a beneficiary of that misuse of funds.  Most likely, it will be difficult to prove that Strauss-Kahn, even if he were found to have known the women involved were prostitutes, knew how they were paid.

High-profile cases in other jurisdictions often affect prosecutorial priorities.  One wonders whether this case will lead American prosecutors to scrutinize corporate books to determine whether corporate funds have been used to supply prostitutes to customers, political figures and others.  I suspect that such payments (and consequent tax deductions as business expenses) are not wholly uncommon, at least for non-public businesses.  Any resulting cases, involving both sex and corporate corruption, are sure to draw media attention.

(goldman)

February 22, 2012 in Celebrities, Corruption, International, Investigations, Media, News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Prosecutorial Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valor: Lance Armstrong; FCPA Gabon Sting

One of the supposed hallmarks of the American criminal justice system is the prudent exercise of prosecutorial discretion. But prosecutorial discretion, even when it works, is a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because it allows for the flexibility and compromise without which most systems, even well-constructed ones, cannot function. A curse, because liberty should not depend upon the the character and wisdom of the person temporarily wielding power.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California has decided not to prosecute Lance Armstrong. An announcement to that effect was made last Friday. The L.A. Times story is here. A good Washington Post piece is here. Today's Wall Street Journal discusses the declination and a potential future probe of of improper leaks related to the case.  (An internal investigation of some kind appears to be warranted given the massive leaking that has occurred.) According to the WSJ, the declination decision by U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte and his top aides went against the recommendation of the two line AUSAs handling the case. Maybe, but take it with a grain of salt. News stories about the internal machinations of prosecution teams often get it wrong.  

Based on what I know about the case, the decision to decline appears to have been a no-brainer. Recent federal prosecutions involving alleged drug use by star athletes have expended enormous sums of money with mixed or poor results. In the Armstrong matter, the doping, if it occurred, was not itself a federal crime. Prosecutors would have been peddling a wire fraud theory under which Armstrong allegedly defrauded team sponsors by intentionally violating a contractual obligation to avoid improper drug use. Not very sexy. Twelve typical American jurors might well wonder at the start of such a case, "Why are we even here?" Finally, Armstrong is enormously popular and has a sterling defense team with unlimited resources.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) vows to continue its investigation, accurately noting that its "job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws." But USADA wants the grand jury materials. This would be a travesty, and is unlikely to happen. Federal grand jury materials are presumptively secret by law for good reason. Don't count on a federal court sanctioning transfer of grand jury materials to an agency like USADA.

In other declination news, the DOJ attorneys prosecuting the Gabon sting case have informed U.S. District Judge Richard Leon that DOJ is considering dropping all future prosecutions. A decision will be made by February 21. The BLT piece is here.  Full disclosure: I briefly represented one of the defendants, and considered representing another of the defendants, neither of whom has gone to trial. My comments here are based on the public record. The two cases brought to date have resulted in three acquittals and two hung juries. Nobody going to trial has been convicted in what DOJ thought was a sure win. Whatever merit there was in initially bringing the case, reconsideration is in order. The two trials to date have revealed a number of weaknesses. First, this was a sting--a crime engineered by the U.S. Government. Second, the informant who helped orchestrate it was far more compromised than the typical informant in a white collar case. Third, in a key tape recorded conversation between that informant and one of the defendants, the defendant seeks to back out of the alleged unlawful transaction, but the informant reels the defendant back in by telling him that attorneys have approved the deal. Fourth, the inherent ambiguities and weaknesses in the FCPA itself.

If there has been a benefit to the Gabon FCPA prosecution it is this--it has taught the white collar defense bar that FCPA cases can be fought and won and, presumably, has taught DOJ that FCPA cases aren't as easy to win as they first appear. 

(wisenberg)

February 8, 2012 in Celebrities, Corruption, Current Affairs, FCPA, Fraud, Government Reports, Grand Jury, Investigations, Media, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Sports, Statutes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Romney Non-Disclosure? Ho-Hum.

The L.A. Times reports here that Mitt Romney did not "explicitly disclose" certain foreign and offshore bank accounts on his required federal campaign disclosure forms. These same accounts were reported, however, to the IRS. Doesn't look like there's much to the story. There are different reporting requirements on campaign forms and IRS returns and some of the items revealed to the IRS were apparently listed at a higher level of generality on the campaign forms. Even assuming that there was some misreporting, one would be hard pressed to call it anything other than inadvertent.

(wisenberg)

January 26, 2012 in Celebrities, Current Affairs, Media, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Blago Gets 14 Years

The Washington Post, via AP, has the story here.

(wisenberg)

December 7, 2011 in Fraud, Judicial Opinions, Media, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Some Further Thoughts On Judge Sullivan's Order

My colleague Ellen Podgor recently commented here on Judge Emmet Sullivan's 11-21-11 ORDER in In Re SPECIAL PROCEEDINGS, the ancillary proceedings initiated by Judge Sullivan to investigate the multiple Brady violations committed by DOJ prosecutors in U.S. v. Theodore Stevens. The ensuing investigation was conducted, on Judge Sullivan's behalf, by veteran DC lawyers Hank Schuelke and William Shields, who have now issued a report that is, I hope, only temporarily under seal.

It is obvious from reading his Order that Judge Sullivan is still outraged. That's a good thing. Until enough federal judges get hopping mad about systemic DOJ Brady violations, we will have no real legislative discovery reform at the federal level.

In addition to the points highlighted by Professor Podgor, Judge Sullivan's Order notes the following findings and conclusions by Schuelke and Shields:

1. "[T]he investigation and prosecution of Stevens were 'permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated his defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government's key witness.'"

2. "[A]t least some of the concealment was willful and intentional, and related to many of the issues raised by the defense during the course of the Stevens trial."

3. Schuelke and Shields "found evidence of concealment and serious misconduct that was previously unknown and almost certainly would never have been revealed--at least to the Court and to the public--but for their exhaustive investigation."

4. Schuelke does not recommend criminal contempt proceedings, because "in order to prove criminal contempt beyond a reasonable doubt under 18 U.S.C. [Section] 401 (3), the contemnor must disobey an order that is sufficiently 'clear and unequivocal at the time it is issued'... [but] no such Order existed in this case. Rather, the Court accepted the repeated representations of the subject prosecutors that they were familiar with their discovery obligations, were complying with those obligations, and were proceeding in good faith."

5. "Mr. Schuelke also notes that '[i]t should go without saying that neither Judge Sullivan, nor any District Judge, should have to order the Government to comply with its constitutional obligations, let alone that he should feel compelled to craft such an order with a view toward a criminal contempt prosecution, anticipating its willful violation.'"

6. "Mr. Schuelke 'offers no opinion as to whether a prosecution for Obstruction of Justice under 18 U.S.C. [Section] 1503 might lie against one or more of the subject attorneys and might meet the standard enunciated in 9-27.220 of the Principles of Federal Prosecution.'" 

It is clear that most or all of this Report is going to be publicly released. It will be interesting to compare it to DOJ OPR's report, assuming that DOJ decides to release it. Two attorneys for two of the prosecutors under scrutiny have already announced that OPR's report clears their respective clients. DOJ has a long history of ignoring the critical comments of federal judges. The latest example of this took place in reference to the prosecution of former Blackwater employees. Despite Judge Ricardo Urbina's scathing factual findings regarding the conduct and credibility of the original set of prosecutors, they were treated to a laudatory/fawning DOJ press release upon reassignment. Urbina, like Sullivan, is one of the most respected federal judges in the country and his factual findings were not questioned or disputed on appeal. 

Some final thoughts.

1. For every Emmet Sullivan (or Ricardo Urbina or Howard Matz) there are 10 federal judges who unquestioningly accept the Government's representations regarding Brady issues, irrespective of non-frivolous matters brought to their attention by the defense bar.

2. The defense attorney has an obligation to ferret out Brady issues through the filing of detailed, fact-specific Brady motions closely tied to the formal allegations in the case.

3. We must rapidly move toward open discovery in the federal criminal system, with appropriate safeguards in place to protect witnesses where necessary. The presumption, however, must always be in favor of open discovery. Many states have gone this route without any disastrous consequences. It is appalling that civil litigants have substantially more access to discovery at the federal level than do people who are literally fighting for their liberty.

4. In the meantime, federal prosecutors must be relieved of the burden of determining whether exculpatory information is material. DOJ already recommends this in the Ogden Memo, but it should go one step further and require it. The rule should be: IF IT HURTS MY CASE IN ANY WAY, TURN IT OVER! When a man judges himself, the verdict is always in his favor. When a federal prosecutor, in the heat of trial or pretrial battle, is deciding whether exculpatory evidence is material, the verdict will too often be that it is not. Let's end this invitation to injustice.

5. Of course, federal prosecutors do not think like criminal defense attorneys. That's okay. We don't want them to! But this is the very reason why they cannot ultimately be trusted to make the determination of what is or is not exculpatory. The competent defense attorney headed to trial or sentencing is constantly thinking about anything that will help the defense. Prosecutors are not trained or inclined to do this. Even when they are trying to fulllfil their Brady obligations, AND THE VAST MAJORITY OF FEDERAL PROSECUTORS ARE TRYING TO DO THIS, they cannot be trusted to spot the issues. This difference in outlook/inclination/thought processes really comes to the fore during the period leading up to sentencing hearings, when the prosecutor looks at the defense attorney like a deer in the headlights when reminded of his/her obligation to provide any and all mitigating evidence!

6. Please. Let's have no more: "We understand our Brady obligations and intend to abide by them." Congress should pass a statute requiring some form of detention for any prosecutor who utters this bromide.

(wisenberg)

November 23, 2011 in Contempt, Corruption, Current Affairs, Government Reports, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, Legal Ethics, Media, Obstruction, Perjury, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Rogue Trader" - OUCH

UBS is having another "ouch" moment as the media is reporting on a rogue trader. The typical questions are - how could this have happened; why was it not discovered sooner; who should be held liable; and should there be criminal liability?  It is too soon to answer many of these questions. But here are some points of interest -

UBS has a corporate responsibility policy that states:

"UBS is firmly committed to corporate responsibility and actively strives to understand, assess, weigh and address the concerns and expectations of the firm's stakeholders. This process supports UBS in its efforts to safeguard and advance the firm’s reputation for responsible corporate conduct. In very direct ways, responsible corporate conduct helps create sustainable value for the company."

Its policies include a host of different preventative measures, such as money laundering prevention here.  It takes pride in employees and notes that "[o]ur employees have the breadth of our businesses, global career opportunities and a collaborative, performance-oriented culture as a platform for individual success."

Rogue employees are not a new development for the corporate arena. No matter how many controls are in place and no matter how much oversight there might be, it is a problem to have full compliance. Knowing this, it seems important to provide companies with a "good faith" defense when a rogue employee commits acts that might be considered criminal.  Unfortunately, to date, courts have only seen fit to insert such as defense in the civil area and not the criminal sphere.  (See Podgor, A New Corporate World Mandates a Good Faith Affirmative Defense)  But corporate criminality in the federal system is premised on respondeat superior and the acts of a rogue employee are hardly for the benefit of the company.

See also -

Dan Fisher, Why Rogue Traders Get Jail But Bad Execs Get A Pension

Frank Jordans & Paisley Dodds, Houston Chronicle, Rogue trader suspected in $2 billion UBS loss

Nathan Vardi, Forbes, Rogue Trader Deals Big Blow To UBS

Victoria Howley & Emma Thomasson, Reuters, UBS $2 billion rogue trade suspect held in London

The Telepgraph, UBS rogue trader: statement to employees in full

(esp)

September 15, 2011 in Fraud, Media, News, Securities | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

U.S. v. Roger Clemens: The Government's Brushback Pitch

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton denied William Roger Clemens’ Motion to Prohibit Retrial and Dismiss the Indictment. If the New York Times is to be believed, Walton thinks that prosecutors “blatantly disregarded” his order barring testimony by Laura Pettitte. But the judge also ruled that “the current state of the law” prevents him from barring a second trial, despite the Constitution’s Double Jeopardy Clause. I respectfully disagree.

The leading case is Oregon v. Kennedy, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982. In his majority opinion in Oregon v. Kennedy, Justice Rehnquist held that when a defendant successfully moves for a mistrial the Double Jeopardy Clause will not prevent a retrial unless the prosecutorial conduct giving rise to the successful motion for mistrial was intended to provoke the defense into moving for mistrial. Got that?

Rehnquist pointed out that when a prosecutor goads the defendant into moving for a mistrial, “the defendant’s valued right to complete his trial before the first jury would be a hollow shell if the inevitable motion for mistrial were held to prevent a later invocation of the bar of double jeopardy in all circumstances.” Rehnquist rejected a broader standard based on prosecutorial overreaching: 

 “The difficulty with the more general standards which would permit a broader exception than one merely based on intent is that they offer virtually no standards for their application. Every act on the part of a rational prosecutor during a trial is designed to ‘prejudice’ the defendant by placing before the judge or jury evidence leading to a finding of his guilt. Given the complexity of the rules of evidence, it will be a rare trial of any complexity in which some proffered evidence by the prosecutor or by the defendant's attorney will not be found objectionable by the trial court. Most such objections are undoubtedly curable by simply refusing to allow the proffered evidence to be admitted, or in the case of a particular line of inquiry taken by counsel with a witness, by an admonition to desist from a particular line of inquiry.”

In contrast, “a standard that examines the intent of the prosecutor, though certainly not entirely free from practical difficulties, is a manageable standard to apply. It merely calls for the court to make a finding of fact. Inferring the existence or nonexistence of intent from objective facts and circumstances is a familiar process in our criminal justice system.” Commentators and practitioners have not focused enough on this passage.

It is a commonplace in criminal law, both state and federal, that intent cannot always be established by direct evidence, but instead must often be inferred from circumstantial evidence. For example, the Third Circuit’s standard jury instruction on “Required State of Mind-Intentionally-Knowingly-Willfully” teaches that:

“Often the state of mind [intent, knowledge, willfulness, or recklessness] with which a person acts at any given time cannot be proved directly, because one cannot read another person’s mind and tell what he or she is thinking. However, (name’s) state of mind can be proved indirectly from the surrounding circumstances. Thus, to determine (name’s) state of mind (what (name) intended or knew) at a particular time, you may consider evidence about what (name) said, what (name) did and failed to do, how (name) acted, and all the other facts and circumstances shown by the evidence that may prove what was in (name's) mind at that time. It is entirely up to you to decide what the evidence presented during this trial proves, or fails to prove, about (name’s) state of mind.”

Every federal circuit, including the D.C. Circuit, has a similar instruction.

 The Third Circuit instruction on “Intentionally” states that:

“The offense(s) of (state offense or offenses that include intentionally or with intent) charged in the indictment requires that the government prove that (name of defendant) acted “intentionally” [“with intent”] with respect to an (certain) element(s) of the offense(s). This means that the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt either that (1) it was (name’s) conscious desire or purpose to act in a certain way or to cause a certain result, or that (2) (name) knew that (he) (she) was acting in that way or would be practically certain to cause that result.

In deciding whether (name) acted “intentionally” [“with intent”], you may consider evidence about what (name) said, what (name) did and failed to do, how (name) acted, and all the other facts and circumstances shown by the evidence that may prove what was in (name)’s mind at that time.”

Every federal circuit, including the D.C. Circuit, has a similar instruction.  

In this regard, Justice Powell’s concurrence in Oregon v. Kennedy is also instructive. Powell noted that, because subjective intent is often unknowable, “a court - in considering a double jeopardy motion - should rely primarily upon the objective facts and circumstances of the particular case.” One of those objective facts and circumstances is whether there was a “sequence of overreaching” prior to the particular prosecutorial error which necessitated a mistrial. 

Thus, Judge Walton, in determining whether the Government intended to provoke a mistrial was free under the law to fully examine all of the circumstances surrounding the Government’s violation of his order.

Every federal circuit also has a “Willful Blindness” instruction. The Third Circuit’s is typical. It states in part that:

“To find (name) guilty of (state the offense), you must find that the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that (name) knew (state the fact or circumstance, knowledge of which is required for the offense charged). In this case, there is a question whether (name) knew (state the fact or circumstance, knowledge of which is required for the offense). When, as in this case, knowledge of a particular fact or circumstance is an essential part of the offense charged, the government may prove that (name) knew of that fact or circumstance if the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that (name) deliberately closed (his) (her) eyes to what would otherwise have been obvious to (him) (her).

No one can avoid responsibility for a crime by deliberately ignoring what is obvious. Thus, you may find that (name) knew (state the fact or circumstance, knowledge of which is required for the offense charged) based on evidence which proves that: (1) (name) was aware of a high probability of this (fact) (circumstance), and (2) (name) consciously and deliberately tried to avoid learning about this (fact) (circumstance).”

This is also known as the “Ostrich Instruction.” A defendant cannot hide his head in the sand about the facts in front of him. Let’s apply the concept to baseball.

When a pitcher throws a brushback pitch to a batter’s head, intending to intimidate the batter, he “knows” there is a possibility that the batter will be hit and injured. When that same pitcher throws a 100 mile an hour brushback pitch to the batter’s head, he “knows” that if the batter is hit, serious injury may result. But when that same pitcher has terrible control problems, is in a bad mood, and throws a 100 mile an hour brushback pitch to the batter’s head, he “knows” there is a high probability that the batter will be hit by the pitch and seriously injured.

Judge Walton was also free to apply the willful blindness concept, regularly applied by prosecutors and courts to convict criminal defendants, to the Government’s actions in the Clemens case.

It was the Government’s playing of the Elijah Cummings videotape to the jury on July 14, 2011, that provoked Judge Walton’s wrath and the defense’s reluctant, but successful, mistrial motion. Representative Cummings, in the course of cross-examining Roger Clemens before Congress, repeatedly mentioned Laura Pettitte’s affidavit. But Judge Walton had ruled this affidavit to be inadmissible. By playing the Cummings tape, the Government effectively snuck the affidavit into evidence through the back door. In trying to justify its use of the Cummings videotape on July 14, the Government never once said that it had made a mistake. Instead, AUSA Durham argued that “[t]here was no intention to run afoul of any Court ruling,” that the defense had possessed the videotape for months, and that the tape was in fact admissible.

There is absolutely no question that the Government intended to play the Cummings videotape, despite the Court’s prior ruling regarding Laura Pettitte’s affidavit. The defense and several commentators have made this point and the record unequivocally supports it. Judge Walton agrees. The prosecutors were deliberately playing it as close to the line as they could, hoping that they could get away with the Cummings videotape. They were throwing a brushback pitch at 100 miles an hour, but they were not paying enough attention to the umpire behind the plate.

And this was not an isolated incident. In determining whether the prosecutors intended to provoke a mistrial motion we are entitled to look at all of the facts and circumstances, including whether there was a “sequence of overreaching,” whether the prosecutors were “acting in [a] way [that] would be practically certain to cause” a mistrial motion, and whether the prosecutors were willfully blind to the likelihood that their win-at-all-costs philosophy would result in a mistrial. The prosecutors knew they were up against two of the finest criminal defense attorneys in the country, Rusty Hardin and Michael Attanasio. The prosecutors were therefore on notice that any conduct in violation of the Court’s orders would not go unchallenged.

On the question of whether the prosecutor’s engaged in a “sequence of overreaching,” I believe that not enough detailed attention has been paid to the Government’s violation of a separate Court order during opening statements. Nor has enough attention been paid to the Government’s attempts to justify this additional violation.

Let us now pay some detailed attention to this separate violation.

When Roger Clemens’ attorneys looked at the Government’s witness list on June 10, 2011, they spotted the names of four men who were trainer Brian McNamee’s former clients. The potential witnesses were Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch, Mike Stanton, and Anthony Corso.

Eleven days later, Clemens filed Defendant’s Motion in Limine and Memorandum of Law (1 of 2) to Preclude Introduction of Other Witness Evidence Concerning Dealings and Discussions With Brian McNamee. In the introductory paragraph of his motion, Clemens attacked the prosecutorial strategy of guilt by association, noted that “[g]uilt under our system of government is personal” and that “inference[s] of guilt drawn by testimony regarding individuals other than defendant[s]” had been rejected by the D.C. Circuit, and sought “to preclude such improper evidence in all respects.”

Specifically, in the rest of his motion/memorandum, Clemens sought to exclude “evidence or argument that Brian McNamee provided or injected other witnesses with steroids or HGH” and “evidence or argument that Brian McNamee’s accounts of dealings with other witnesses are confirmed or consistent.”

Recognizing that “the evidence offered through Mr. Pettitte is so likely to be interrelated to the case against and in defense of Mr. Clemens that precluding it in its entirety would be impractical,” Clemens nevertheless sought to preclude the Government “from making improper argument that Brian McNamee provided or injected Andy Pettitte with HGH and told the truth about it.”

The Government vigorously opposed Clemens’ motion in an 11 page Opposition Brief. In footnote 5 of its brief, the Government stated that “[f]ormer players Pettitte, Knoblauch, Stanton, and Segui will also testify as to other relevant facts that defendant’s motion does not encompass. This includes but is not limited to: the reasons why players chose to use these drugs, and (2) team practices with respect to the dispensation of prescription drugs such as lidocaine and vitamin B12.”

This is an odd comment to hide in a footnote, particularly given Clemens’ stated desire to exclude guilt by association evidence “in all respects.”

Fast forward two weeks to the July 5, 2011, motions hearing. Judge Walton was obviously concerned about the prejudicial impact of testimony that McNamee had injected other players with illegal substances and told the truth about it. Stating his understanding that Clemens’ defense would be one of unknowing injection with such substances, Judge Walton wondered “how evidence that other individuals were getting these substances from Mr. McNamee and they knew they were getting, how that somehow could be imputed to Mr. Clemens. But I’ll hear from the government as to why this evidence is relevant, unless in some way the defense puts it in issue.”

After listening to arguments, the Court was unmoved. “I can understand why you’d want to do it, but my concern is that if his position is that yes, McNamee was giving me injections, but he was injecting me with what I thought were vitamins and other items that are not banned, the concern I would have is that if you bring in that evidence showing that these individuals were getting these substances from Mr. McNamee and they knew [what] they were getting, that the jury may say well, if they knew what they were getting from McNamee, then why wouldn’t Clemens also know that he was getting the same thing. And that doesn’t necessarily compute. That may not be true. And so, I think there is a significant potential for him being unduly prejudiced by that evidence coming in.”

Judge Walton agreed to have his law clerk look at a D.C. Circuit case that the Government mentioned in its oral presentation and said that he would come back to the issue. But the Government immediately started reiterating its position, arguing its right “to rebut any notion that Mr. Clemens somehow thought that what McNamee was giving him was B-12 when, in fact, it wasn’t. This is also a central issue of proof in the Government’s case.”

Judge Walton said, “Okay. I’ll look at the case. I’m just still having some real problems with this because I can see how even with a cautionary instruction, assuming I could craft one that would be intelligible to the jury, I could see how they could still potentially misuse that evidence. I mean, I don’t know. I mean, I use to get cortisone shots when I was playing football in college. And I had to rely upon what the trainer was giving me. And I would not want to be held responsible for having done something inappropriate based upon what that trainer was giving to other people. And that’s the concern that I have.”

The Court then moved onto other admissibility issues, including whether the Government could put on evidence that Andy Pettitte contemporaneously repeated his conversation with Clemens to his wife Laura Pettitte. The Court also ruled that this evidence was inadmissible, as long as Clemens was only arguing that Andy Pettitte misheard, rather than misremembered, the conversation with Clemens. If Andy Pettitte misheard Clemens admit to illegal steroid injections, his repetition of the conversation to Mrs. Pettitte does not rebut anything. The defense confirmed that this was its position.

Later the Court returned, as promised, to the issue of McNamee’s dealings with other players. “I fully appreciate that the jury is going to have to assess Mr. McNamee’s credibility, and that his credibility is going to be seriously attacked by the defense. But I don’t think, at least at this point, that the mere fact that they are going to seriously attack his credibility necessarily opens the door to bring in evidence regarding Mr. McNamee’s dealing with other players. Because as I say, my main concern is that if Mr. Clemens’ position, and I understand it is at least in part his position that he did not know what he was receiving, it seems to me that there’s a real danger, that the jury may say, well, if they all knew, and that’s especially I guess true in reference to players who are also on the same team, that why wouldn’t Mr. Clemens know? And I think that would be a problem, for them to in some way use the evidence regarding what he was doing with these other players to impute knowledge on the part [of] Mr. Clemens. But I’ll reserve a final ruling until I see what transpires during the trial. And if somehow I feel that the door has been opened, I may be inclined to change my position. But my tentative position is that the evidence is not going to come in.”

What happened next in the motions hearing is, to me, very important. The Court asked whether there were other matters to take up. Rusty Hardin said “I don’t believe so from the defense, Your Honor.” But the Government had something else to say.

Without specifically referencing footnote 5 of the Government’s Opposition Brief, AUSA Durham told the Court that “[t]he other players, as we point out in the motion, there are areas of testimony [that] are not the subject of the defense motion in limine that we set forth and proffer in our opposition pleading. I just want to make sure that I don’t run afoul of any of the Court’s ruling by mentioning that there were other players who may testify in this trial, who played for the Yankees during this time period.”

Judge Walton, clearly not remembering footnote 5, sought clarification: “That’s all you’re going to say?”

Durham responded: “Yes, pretty much. Yes.”

Hardin said: “No problem.”

Judge Walton said: “Okay. And other matters?”

And the motions hearing ended.

Three things should have been crystal clear after the motions hearing and the foregoing exchange.

1. The Government had lost two crucial evidentiary battles as a result of the defense motions in limine.

2. The Government would not be allowed to mention to the jury, without leave of Court, any drug use by other players who were Clemens’ contemporaries, particularly his Yankee contemporaries.

3. The Government would be allowed tell the jurors during opening statement that “there were other players who may testify in this trial who played for the Yankees during this time period.”

But that is all the Government would be allowed to say on this topic.

Fast forward eight days to opening statements on July 13, 2011.

AUSA Durham told the jury that four of the players named in the Mitchell Report “are willing to testify as witnesses in this trial. Three of those players…Mr. Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton, these players all played for the New York Yankees in 2000 and 2001….Each of these players, Mr. Pettitte, Mr. Knoblauch and Mr. Stanton played for the New York Yankees in 2001 and 2001. And they’ll tell you, ladies and gentlemen, each one of them will tell you that they used the drug human growth hormone, this drug that’s injected into the abdomen with a small insulin needle. And they’ll tell you why they used it, and they used it to recover from injuries. They used it because there was a lot of pressure in Major League Baseball to play and perform. And at the high levels, there was great financial reward and great recognition.”

Defense counsel Hardin interrupted and asked to approach the bench. At the bench, Hardin reminded the Court of its ruling on the motion in limine.

AUSA Durham responded: “This is what I clarified with the Court, and I just want to make sure. When I stood at the plate, I said I want to make sure. I want to follow the Court’s ruling that I would refer to players, that players would testify as to why they used these substances.” This was, of course, a false statement. It may not have been intentionally false, but it was blatantly false. Durham continued, “I am not going to go into where they got them, how they got them or any of that. But I don’t believe this runs afoul at all of the Court’s ruling.”

Judge Walton said: “And that’s relevant for what purpose?”

Mr. Durham: “Why he would use these drugs. These are teammates of him. They play at the same time on the same team. It explains why in the world this man would choose to use these drugs.”

Mr. Hardin: “Not a one of them are going to say anything about Roger Clemens, even if it was allowed, using steroids. What they’re allowed to imply through this is that Roger Clemens must have used steroids because these players found it helped them. That’s incredibly irrelevant and prejudicial.”

Judge Walton, trusting the prosecutor and apparently having forgotten Durham’s precise words on July 5, said “I don’t doubt that you said what you said earlier, but I did not really rule ultimately on the issue as to whether this could come in under any circumstances. And I clearly had said it couldn’t come in for the purpose of suggesting that, because they knew what they were using, that Mr. Clemens would have known what he was using.” Walton told Durham “I have not given the leeway for this information to come in.” Walton instructed the jury to disregard Durham’s comments about other players using drugs.

The next day, after the Government played the Cummings videotape in violation of the Court’s order, Rusty Hardin reminded Judge Walton of this earlier violation:

“Well, let me mention, the problem we have is, is this is the second, so there must be a total misunderstanding on the government's part as to their obligations, because this happened during opening statement, too. I had to object during opening statement to a mentioning of other players. The Court ruled and reminded them that that was a violation of the motion in limine.”

AUSA Durham did not want to revisit that issue, but offered to get a transcript:

“When I asked the Court, I don't want to run afoul of the Court's ruling, can the government mention other players with respect to and in connection with why they used the drug as opposed to whom they got it from. There is no bad faith on the part of the government here in trying to prove this case.”

Once again, this was an inaccurate representation of what transpired during the motions hearing, but presumably Durham had not had an opportunity to review the motions hearing transcript.

Well after the mistrial, in its August 19, 2011, written response to Clemens’ motion to bar retrial on double jeopardy grounds, the Government again discussed its effort in the July 5 motions hearing to not “run afoul of any of the Court’s ruling.” But the Government did not quote in full, or in proper sequence, from AUSA Durham’s actual exchange with Hardin and the Court. Instead, the Government claimed that on July 5 it had “asked the Court for clarification of the scope of its tentative ruling,” and was clearly making “a reference to footnote five of the government’s opposition.” According to the Government, “defense counsel appeared to indicate that he had no objection to an opening statement reference to HGH abuse by other Major League players.” 

This is a material misstatement of the record. And, unlike AUSA Durham’s mischaracterizations of the record in the heat of trial on July 13 and July 14, the Government had ample time--over a month--to carefully consider its words. 

Judge Walton could have considered the Government’s continuing misrepresentation of the July 5 record in deciding whether the prosecutors intentionally provoked a mistrial. He could have considered all of the factors I have been discussing and fashioned an opinion with a good chance of surviving on appeal. After all, he does not believe that the seasoned prosecutors made a mistake. He believes that they deliberately violated his orders.

I do not profess to know exactly why Judge Walton ruled for the Government. By all accounts he is a fair, straightforward and intelligent jurist. [Full disclosure: I had a hearing in front of Judge Walton on Friday and did not receive the precise result I asked for.] Perhaps we will learn more if he issues a written opinion. I have no reason to think that his stated reason, as reported in the press, is not the real one.

Hardin and Attanasio are considering an interlocutory appeal. This would set up a difficult challenge. Perhaps they can argue that Judge Walton incorrectly thought his hands were tied, because he had no direct explicit proof of prosecutorial intent.

One thing is clear from Judge Walton’s comments during the motions hearing and from his actions during the first trial. He is determined to give Mr. Clemens a fair trial—to be, in the words of Chief Justice Roberts, an impartial umpire. And the Government will now be extremely limited in what it can put before the jury. Mr. Clemens has sought vindication, ever since he voluntary appeared before Congress to deny charges of illegal use of performance enhancing drugs. An acquittal by a jury of his peers is the most complete form of vindication that he will be able to achieve. Maybe he will get it, with Judge Walton behind the plate.   

(Wisenberg)

September 4, 2011 in Celebrities, Congress, Current Affairs, Judicial Opinions, Media, News, Obstruction, Perjury, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Sports | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Folks do need to pay attention to where they are."

This weekend saw something unusual in the nation's elite newspapers. Three detailed stories about white collar crime issues.

WSJ Weekend carried this in-depth and outstanding piece by Gary Fields and John R. Emshwiller about overcriminalization--the proliferation of criminal statutes, particularly at the federal level, covering more and more aspects of everyday life. The article also focused on Congress's increasing enactment of statutes that dispense with any meaningful mens rea element. Although both of these problems have been around for years, and the article makes no effort to treat the matter historically, it does a generally good job of framing the issues.

Fields and Emshwiller detail how the Idaho U.S. Attorney's Office successfully prosecuted a father and son for attempting "to take artifacts off federal land without a permit" under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979. They were out camping and looking for arrowheads, which they failed to find, and apparently did not know that the law existed. According to Fields and Emshwiller, the Act "doesn't require criminal intent." This is true of the Act on its face, but the father and son clearly intended to search for arrowheads and did not have a permit. This case is really more an example of obscure administrative criminal statutes that no normal person can be expected to master. Hence it is terribly unfair in such circumstances to apply the old saw that "ignorance of the law is no excuse." But don't tell that to Idaho U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson. She will just answer that "[f]olks do need to pay attention to where they are."

The article also details how Olson's office convicted an inventor for abandoning covered chemicals under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. This was after the inventor had been acquitted in an Alaskan federal court for illegally shipping the same chemicals without proper labeling. Would this have been the proper occasion for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion? Not a chance. According to Ms. Olson, her "office will continue to aggressively prosecute" such crimes.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the Washington Post's David Hilzenrath wrote a story with the headline, Quandary for U.S. companies: Whom to Bribe? The piece purported to give both sides of the FCPA debate, but I found it slanted towards the DOJ view. While discussing the recent convictions in the Lindsey Manufacturing case, Hilzenrath never mentions that the Lindsey guilty verdicts are in serious doubt post-trial, with further briefing due from the parties and a federal district judge who has questioned the case and is angry at the government. Even more amazingly, Hilzenrath nowhere references the recently concluded 10-week jury trial in D.C. against the first wave of defendants in DOJ's heavily publicized African Sting FCPA bribery case. The trial resulted in a hung jury mistrial. According to one of the defense attorneys, Todd Foster, the main theme of the defense was that the FCPA was too complicated to be understood by the defendants. Yet this trial, occurring right under the Post's nose, was not deemed worthy of mention. Hat tip to Todd for bringing the article to my attention.

Finally, the Sunday New York Times focuses on Murdoch's Unlikely Ally, former New York City schools chancellor and DOJ Antitrust Chief Joel Klein, in an article by Jeremy Peters, Michael Barbaro, and Javier Hernandez. It is a very good story and remarkable for its focus on the mechanics of News Corporation's internal investigation. Instead of following the "best practice" and hiring an outside law firm to conduct the investigation and report to an audit or special committee controlled by independent outsiders, News Corporation is employing something of a hybrid. It has appointed Lord Anthony Grabiner as the internal investigation's "Independent Chairman." But Grabiner sat behind, and presumably advised, the Murdochs during last week's parliamentary testimony. Grabiner will report to Klein, a News Corporation executive and trusted Murdoch adviser who also sat behind the Murdochs. Klein will report to Viet Dinh, "an independent director on the News Corporation board," for whom I have enormous respect. The article quotes University of Delaware corporate governance expert Charles Elson to the effect that this arrangement "is not standard practice." It may be more standard than Professor Elson realizes. It is obviously not the best practice for ensuring a truly independent investigation. Virtually by definition, there is no way that such an investigation can be wholly and truly independent.

By the way, even an investigation conducted by outside counsel and reporting to the audit committee (or a specially created independent committee) may only be independent up to a point. Let's say that the investigation is completed and outside counsel submits a report to the audit or independent committee. What happens next? Is the Board of Directors required to follow the recommendations of the independent committee? If not, then what is the point of the process in the first place? But that is a topic for another day.

(Wisenberg)

July 25, 2011 in Current Affairs, FCPA, Investigations, Legal Ethics, Media, News, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

NACDL's 1st Annual West Coast White Collar Conference, “Turning The Tables On The Government” – “Twitter, Facebook & Google in the Courtroom: High Profile Defense in Real Time,” Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guest Blogger: Darin Thompson, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Office of the Federal Public Defender (Cleveland,OH)

The seminar opened with a discussion of the intersection between the internet (especially so-called “social media”) and the courtroom. The discussion was moderated by Gail Shifman, and the panel included Leslie R. Caldwell, Rusty Hardin, Dennis P. Riordan, and Allen J. Ruby.

The panel started by discussing cases with intense media scrutiny. High profile cases can arise due to the notoriety of the client, as was the case with Mr. Ruby’s former client Barry Bonds. But as Ms. Shifman noted, any kind of case or defendant can become notorious, as the glare of the media spotlight can be prompted by the facts of the case.  The skills discussed can be required by cases in any criminal defense practice.

Mr. Hardin stressed determining early in the case to what extent the client’s reputation in the community is especially important, i.e., a celebrity or politician, and if so, react more proactively in media response. He stressed that the storyline of the case for the media will be set very early, perhaps in the first 36 hours, and will be repeated as the media updates the story.

Mr. Ruby spoke about a client’s concerns when under the spotlight: a strategy that repairs damage to reputation, to the extent possible. The internet has changed the game in many ways, but one is that it never forgets: every news story remains preserved for future searches, making “weathering the storm” less viable of a strategy than in years past.

Mr. Riordan discussed picking potential media outlets to suit your strategy: not every client and case will benefit from a discussion with Nancy Grace or her ilk, but some will.  Different kinds of print media and bloggers are well suited to other kinds of cases.

Multiple panelists referenced the Duke rape case as one of the finest examples of excellence in media strategy. The choice of media, themes and messengers were all lauded.

Where reporters are pressing attorneys for comments, but public comments would not be beneficial (i.e., are part of the media strategy), off-the-record or background comments to the press may be useful, either to “hold them at bay” or to begin to influence the media coverage of a case. Where attorneys are gagged not by strategy, but by court order, motions can be drafted to convey the client’s position.

Another point stressed by multiple panelists was that the jury will remember what the lawyers say, and therefore attorneys should be careful before they make specific factual assertions in the press.

The panel discussion turned to specific social media issues. Use of social media research on witnesses or jurors was discussed, and it was noted that the use of third persons to surreptitiously access Facebook pages has been repeatedly characterized as unethical in numerous bar opinions.

Jury control in the age of social media and internet saturation was discussed. All panelists agreed that ordinary jury admonitions on these topics are seemingly “not processed” by jurors: it is simply unfathomable to not use the internet. Suggestions included requesting Facebook and Twitter information from prospective jurors (perhaps being given only to the court), or requesting the strongest possible judicial warnings to jurors.

(dt)

June 16, 2011 in Celebrities, Conferences, Defense Counsel, Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fraud Rules the Roost in FBI Press Release Count

I believe that I subscribe to every DOJ press release service pertaining to federal criminal law. My favorite press releases to read are those put out by the FBI. World class self-promoters, the folks at the Bureau like to brag every time one of their investigations results in an arrest, indictment, guilty plea, trial conviction, or sentence. Following the FBI's press releases can give you a quick, informal, and unscientific sense of what's hot and happening in federal law enforcement--at least according to the FBI. Yesterday, the Bureau issued 19 press releases related to specific federal criminal cases. Fraud is in first at 8 press releases. Robbery comes in a strong second at 5. Child pornography is third with 2. Piracy, stolen firearms, stolen cars, and prescription drug abuse limp in at 1 each. White collar crime rules the roost. We're number one!

(slw)

September 9, 2010 in Current Affairs, Fraud, Government Reports, Investigations, Media, News, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, 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.

(slw)

August 19, 2010 in Celebrities, Congress, Current Affairs, Grand Jury, Investigations, Media, Obstruction, Perjury, Prosecutions, Sports | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

NACDL President Comments on Honest Services Trilogy

GUEST BLOGGER-SOLOMON L. WISENBERG

Here is a press release from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers ("NACDL") containing NACDL President Cynthia Orr's comments on today's U.S. Supreme Court honest services opinions. Orr is “heartened that the Court has unambiguously rejected government arguments that the ‘honest services’ fraud statute can be properly used across as broad a range of conduct as the government has sought to do in recent years.” Nonetheless she is"disappointed that the Court has held that there remains a place in our criminal justice system for a statute on whose meaning few can agree.” (In various friend of the court briefs, NACDL has taken the position, now shared by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy, that 18 U.S.C. Section 1346 is unconstitutionally vague.)

Orr expects “to see future litigation surrounding efforts by prosecutors to wedge their cases into the ‘bribe or kickback’ paradigm to which the Court has now limited this statute.” Of this we can be sure.

The NACDL press release also bemoans the portion of the Skilling opinion which "shockingly found that pre-trial publicity and community prejudice did not prevent Mr. Skilling from obtaining a fair trial. In fact, though, there has not been a more poisoned jury pool since the notorious first robbery and murder trial of Wilbert Rideau in Louisiana." 

(slw)

June 24, 2010 in Current Affairs, Enron, Insider Trading, Judicial Opinions, Media, News, Obstruction, Prosecutions, SEC, Securities, Statutes | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)