Thursday, December 14, 2017

McCabe & Mr. Mueller: Where Are We Now?

With apologies to the memory of Robert Altman.

  1. FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe wouldn't know a conflict of interest if it jumped up and bit him in the butt. He had no business supervising the Clinton Email investigation or the Clinton Foundation investigation in any capacity whatsoever. Supervising those investigations after his wife's political campaign accepted a $600K plus donation from close Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe was a gross and obvious conflict of interest. Yet he persisted.
  2. McCabe did not recuse himself until after publication of a Wall Street Journal article detailing the McAuliffe donation. By that time, both investigations were closed. FBI Special Agents involved in the Clinton Foundation investigation were reportedly kept from pursuing certain avenues of investigation with McCabe's knowledge and/or participation.
  3. The Clinton email investigation and the Clinton Foundation investigation were both mishandled. Anybody even remotely familiar with how federal investigations work will tell you as much. You don't give limited use immunity to gain access to a witness's computer when you can get the same information through a search warrant. This is particularly true when the immunity grant impacts  a related investigation--which it almost certainly did in this instance. You don't let a small army of the subject's cronies attend her formal law enforcement interview. You don't allow a witness in the investigation to attend the subject's interview under the guise that said witness is also the subject's attorney.
  4. The FBI's Peter Strzok should never have been assigned to the Russian/Trump Collusion investigation by Comey and McCabe in August 2016. By this time, the Clinton Email investigation was being harshly criticized by GOP front-runner Trump and other Republican hopefuls. You don't assign the FBI agent whose work is being attacked to investigate the very person who is leading the attack. Accordingly, Mueller should have removed Strzok as one of his first official acts.  We now know that Strzok had a vitriolic hatred of all things Trump, which he freely exhibited during the course of the Russian/Trump Collusion investigation. It's not about Strzok's political views. Agents and prosecutors cannot be hired, passed over, or fired based on their political affiliation. It's about Strzok's ability to operate in an unbiased manner during the course of an investigation. To his credit, Mueller immediately fired Strzok upon learning ab0ut Strzok's incriminating texts. It now appears that McCabe almost certainly knew of Strzok's intemperate hatred of Trump before, or shortly after, Strzok was assigned to the Russian/Trump Collusion investigation. What a wonderful little stink bomb he left for Mueller.
  5. DAG Rod Rosenstein should order the DOJ to release the full contents of Bob Mueller's Conflicts Waiver, except for portions that must remain confidential to protect attorney-client confidences. The public has a right to know of any friendships that could potentially impact Mueller's work.
  6. Bob Mueller is an honorable man. He is also tone deaf and politically naïve. Mueller should have recognized that he and his team would be attacked by Trump World and put under a microscope. He should have taken greater care to assure himself that the team he assembled would not be subject to credible accusations of political bias. Special Counsels are hired in the first place to avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts.
  7. Bob Mueller should not resign or be fired, because he has done nothing that would warrant resignation or firing. The calls for Mueller to quit or be sacked are coming for the most part from partisan ideological hacks. These are some of the same people falsely stating that Rosenstein is a liberal Democrat and a Mueller protégé. Rosenstein (my old friend and former colleague) is a mainstream conservative Republican and long-time play-it-by-the book professional. I guess that's not good enough for some people, who apparently want him to have a pin-up of Roy Moore in his bedroom.
  8. Bob Mueller should not demand the resignation of any staff members, based on our current state of knowledge. True, he should not have hired Andrew Weissman, who has more baggage than a Carnival Cruise ship, or Jeannie Rhee in the first place, due to the appearance of potential bias. But there is no evidence that they have let any biases affect their work.
  9. We don't need a Special Counsel to investigate Mueller or his people. A Special Counsel is for criminal investigations. Any credible claims of impropriety directed to Mueller or his team can and should be handled by DOJ's Office of Inspector General ("OIG").
  10. It is not enough to say that OIG is investigating the handling of the Clinton email investigation. We need to know more. Will OIG also look at the interplay between the Clinton Email Investigation and the Clinton Foundation investigation? Is OIG using its subpoena power? If not, why not? 

(wisenberg)

December 14, 2017 in Investigations, Legal Ethics, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Senator Robert Menendez Jury Hangs: Mistrial Declared

Here is a story from Max Greenwood of The Hill and another from Bill Wichert of Law 360. Make no mistake about it, this was a great and hard-fought victory for Menendez's lead defense attorneys Abbe Lowell and Raymond Brown and for the entire defense teams of Bob Menendez and Salomon Melgen. Despite all of the speculation concerning the impact of the Supreme Court's McDonnell decision, I doubt that it materially impacted the jury's work. It is obvious that Senator Menendez performed official acts on behalf of his co-defendant Salomon Melgen. It appears instead that some of the jurors bought the defense's theory that the Senator's actions were taken based on his close and long-time friendship with Melgen. This bodes well for Senators who accept expensive gifts and do political favors for old friends. The key here is to make friends with the right solons earlier in their careers. Then you can become an old friend. 

(wisenberg)

November 16, 2017 in Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Special Counsels Are Sometimes Necessary

Andrew McCarthy at National Review Online compares the aggressiveness of Special Counsel Bob Mueller's Russia collusion investigation to the disgraceful kid gloves DOJ-FBI treatment of Mrs. Clinton and her email server. He is right on all counts, but this is not Mueller's problem. Mueller is doing exactly what one would expect of a Special Counsel. History teaches us that a Special or Independent Counsel will get rolled if he does not establish, unequivocally and from the start, that he will not be trifled with, obstructed, or lied to.  I'm not aware of anything that Mueller has done to date that is outside ethical boundaries. The real outrage, as I have said many times before, is that a Special Counsel was not appointed to investigate Mrs. Clinton. The governing federal regulation plainly called for it. Let's review.

28 CFR § 600.1 Grounds for appointing a Special Counsel.

The Attorney General, or in cases in which the Attorney General is recused, the Acting Attorney General, will appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted and -

(a) That investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney's Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances; and

(b) That under the circumstances, it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.

In Mrs. Clinton's case, the President's former Secretary of State, and the leading Democratic Party candidate for President, was credibly accused of mishandling classified documents on a private unauthorized email server and the President himself had communicated with her through that server. Even worse, during the investigation, the President improperly interfered by publicly declaring, on two separate occasions, that Mrs. Clinton did not intentionally engage in wrongdoing and did not harm national security. It is easy to imagine the furor that would have ensued if a Republican President had engaged in such conduct. The pressure to appoint a Special Counsel would have been relentless. It is easy to imagine, because that is exactly what happened with respect to President Trump.

So conservatives are understandably (and rightfully) outraged at the double standard, but, as with so much else, President Trump has primarily himself to blame. When you fire the FBI Director who is investigating members of your administration for unlawful collusion with Russia, and immediately brag to the Russian Ambassador that you fired him in order to get the Russia collusion investigation behind you, you are going to get a Special Counsel. It is yet another example of how President Trump, a political genius with a profound ignorance of basic American civics and governing norms, has stumbled into problem after problem. Kudos to Ty Cobb for limiting the damage for now.

None of this is Mueller's fault. He is doing the job we expect a competent Special Counsel to do.

(wisenberg)

November 13, 2017 in Corruption, Current Affairs, Grand Jury, Investigations, Legal Ethics, Obstruction, Perjury, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Fox News Reports Veselnitskaya-Fusion GPS Connection

Fox News is reporting here that a co-founder of Fusion GPS met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya both before and after her June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., Jaren Kushner, Paul Manafort, and others. The Trump Tower meeting primarily involved a discussion of the Magnitsky Act, adoption, and/or dirt on Hillary Clinton, depending on whose version you accept. Trump Jr. has admitted that he showed up in order to hear about the dirt. According to Fox News, the first Veselnitskaya-Fusion meeting occurred "hours before" the Trump Tower meeting during a court hearing and the second Veselnitskaya-Fusion meeting occurred at an unspecified later time. The Trump Tower meeting has always smelled like a set-up to me and this report may fuel more speculation along these lines. As I noted here yesterday, I believe that Special Counsel Mueller already has authority to investigate the Steele Dossier as part of his charter. If he isn't investigating the Fusion GPS/Steele Dossier from top to bottom he should be, since, among other things, it was delivered to the FBI as part of an effort to prove that members of the Trump camp improperly coordinated with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign. If the Steele Dossier contained false information and was given to the Bureau as part of a deliberate effort to mislead the Department of Justice, somebody could conceivably be facing obstruction of justice charges. We need to know more about the Veselnitskaya-Fusion connection, but it is certainly interesting to find out that Fusion GPS had some kind of relationship with Veselnitskaya at the same time that the well-connected Russian lawyer was allegedly trying to entice the Trump team with dirt on Ms. Clinton.

(wisenberg)

November 9, 2017 in Current Affairs, Investigations, Obstruction, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Fusion GPS: Already Within Mueller's Charter

Senator Lindsey Graham called over the weekend for a new Special Counsel to investigate the Fusion GPS/Steele Dossier affair and the Uranium One transaction. He has a point about Uranium One, but Fusion GPS is squarely within the scope of Special Counsel Bob Mueller's authority as set out in the Order appointing him. That Order explicitly authorizes Mueller to "conduct the investigation confirmed" by Saint Jim Comey in his March 20, 2017 testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The Comey-DOJ investigation was already considering the Steele Dossier as part of its work. Mueller is further authorized to investigate links and coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with Donald Trump's campaign as well as "matters that arose" from said investigation. Clearly, the Steele Dossier was a matter that arose as part of the overall Russian collusion investigation and may have helped to instigate or prolong it. Finally, as part of the federal regulation governing Special Counsels, Mueller is authorized to investigate any effort to obstruct his investigation, which is a continuation of the original Comey-DOJ investigation. Assuming that the Steele Dossier contains deliberate falsehoods, and was given to the FBI by someone with knowledge of those falsehoods as part of a deliberate effort to obstruct the original DOJ investigation (by unfairly pointing the finger at Trump), this would also be within Mueller's bailiwick. Indeed, I assume that Mueller is already looking at the Steele Dossier as part of an obstruction of justice investigation. He would be derelict in his duty if he were not.

Any new Special Counsel for the Steele Dossier would simply be overlapping with Mueller and would need to hire a staff and get up to speed. I see no need for this, unless something about the Steele Dossier presents a conflict of interest for Mueller. Some commentators shave suggested that the FBI paid Steele for some of his work, or thought about doing so. If any of those agents are still on the investigative team, could it create a conflict? Perhaps, but that could be resolved by removing such agents from the investigation or from the Steele Dossier part of the investigation. And keep in mind that any Special Counsel will almost certainly have to rely on FBI Special Agents to conduct at least some of his/her work. If you think a desire to protect the Bureau automatically creates a conflict then even a new Special Counsel would face the potential for conflict. 

(wisenberg)

 

November 8, 2017 in Current Affairs, Grand Jury, Investigations, Legal Ethics, Obstruction, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 30, 2017

George Papadopoulos Criminal Information and Plea Papers

As most people have figured out by now, the most interesting development related to the charges unsealed today by Bob Mueller & company is the guilty plea entered into by an apparently marginal Trump Campaign operative named George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos established direct and indirect contact with some Russians early in the campaign and lied about it later to the FBI. Not a good career choice. Now he has entered into a cooperation agreement and pled guilty under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 (the Martha Stewart statute) to making false statements to government officials. Even without a downward variance his Guidelines Range is 0-6 months, so he won't be doing any time.  According to the U.S. v. George Papadopoulos Statement of the Offense, which is the key document in the case, on April 26, 2016, while Papadopoulos was working on the campaign, one of Papadopoulos's foreign contacts advised him that the Russians had access to "dirt" on Mrs.  Clinton and "thousands of emails."  Interestingly, the Statement of the Offense does not explicitly say that the emails were offered to the Trump Campaign by the Russians or that Papadopoulos shared the information about the emails with Trump Campaign officials. Here also are the  U.S. v. George Papadopoulos Criminal Information, and the U.S. v. George Papadopoulos Plea Agreement.

(wisenberg)

October 30, 2017 in Corruption, Current Affairs, Fraud, Investigations, Martha Stewart, Obstruction, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Manafort-Gates Indictment

On the Brink of Charges? UPDATE

The first thing to ask, if CNN's Friday night report is accurate, is who leaked? Because if the leak came from the government or court staff it is almost certainly an illegal violation of a sealed court order and/or grand jury proceedings. And if it came from the defense attorney of the party to be charged, who told him or her? The whole point of sealing something is so that the public doesn't know about it. All a courthouse staffer, moonlighting as media lookout, could have legitimately told the press is that "we saw so and so going into the court's chambers" or something along those lines.

Second, why would charges be sealed in the first place? Perhaps because the prosecution is afraid that someone will flee. That is the only legitimate reason I can think of to place an indictment under seal. If it was placed under seal to give government agents the opportunity for an early morning arrest it wouldn't surprise me one bit, given Andrew Weissman's dismal track record for hardball, heavy-handed tactics. (It will be interesting to find out someday just exactly what the government told a federal magistrate in order to get that no-knock warrant to search Paul Manafort's residence.)

Is it possible that the sealing was done in order to protect a defendant from having to spend the weekend (or at least one night) in DC jail? Unlikely. For defendants who do not turn themselves in by mid-morning in DC, the possibility of a night in jail is real. But if the prosecutors really cared about that, why not bring the charges on a weekday morning and allow the defendant to turn himself in the next day? This is done all the time.

Is it possible that the pending indictment report, true or false, is a deliberate ruse to see who will attempt to flee? In other words, does the government actually want someone to try to flee? After all, flight can be used as evidence of guilt in court. Unlikely, but anything is possible with Weissman in the number two slot.

We should find something out today. Here is Politico's excellent background piece by Darren Samuelsohn.

If there are any charges, expect them to be ancillary in nature. Look for false reporting violations or false statements to government agents. More to come.

UPDATE:

The Indictment is out and we will try to get it up as soon as possible. It is obvious that the prosecutors did the right thing in allowing Paul Manafort and Rick Gates to turn themselves in and that, in all likelihood, one of the defense attorneys leaked the news to CNN. Grand jury secrecy rules do not apply to witnesses or to those who receive their information from witnesses.

(wisenberg)

October 30, 2017 in Current Affairs, Grand Jury, Investigations, Legal Ethics, News, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Searches | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Is the Schock Case Unraveling?

It's not every day that a federal district judge accuses the government of misleading the Court and demands corrective action. But it's happening in the Urbana Division of the Central District of Illinois. I posted here in March regarding the federal case against former Congressman Aaron Schock. Among other items of alleged government misconduct, the defense maintained that prosecutors improperly commented to grand jurors on Schock's failure to testify, in violation of his Fifth Amendment Privilege Against Self-Incrimination. The defense relied in part on an affidavit by a dismissed grand juror. After unequivocally denying the grand juror's allegation, the government clarified the record, more than six months later, admitting that government counsel "commented on or addressed Mr. Schock's testifying or decision not to testify before the grand jury" on eleven occasions. U.S. District Judge Colin Bruce was not amused, and ordered the government to review each of its previous filings "to ensure that no more false or misleading claims were made." Judge Bruce also gave the government 14 days to file a memo "detailing any further misrepresentations or misleading statements." Here is Judge Bruce's Order Requiring Government Memorandum re Misrepresentations. The government responded yesterday, denying that it had misrepresented anything to the Court, asking the Court to reconsider its finding regarding misrepresentation, and representing further that it had not intentionally made any materially misleading statements in its prior filings. Here is the Government's Compliance with the Court's October 3 Order and Motion to Reconsider. Schock, represented by George Terwillliger, Bob Bittman, Benjamin Hatch, Nicholas Lewis, and Christina Egan of McGuire Woods in DC and Chicago and by Jeffrey Lang of Lane & Waterman in Davenport, Iowa, wasted no time, not even a day, in firing back. Here is Schock's Motion to Strike or in the Alternative Leave to File a Response. Here as well is Schock's Proposed Response to Government's Compliance. In a future post, I will examine the nature of the government's comments to the grand jurors.

(wisenberg)

October 19, 2017 in Congress, Corruption, Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Fraud, Grand Jury, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, Obstruction, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

DOJ Considering Changes to Yates Memo

According to Reuters, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said on Thursday that there may be changes to the Yates Memo "in the near future." As discussed at length on this blog (see here, here, here, and here; see also here for an article on the Principles of Prosecution and the Yates Memo), the Yates Memo was released by the DOJ in 2015 in response to criticism that the government had failed to prosecute individuals, particularly on Wall Street, related to the financial crisis of the late 2000s.  The Yates Memo responded by focussing federal prosecutors on targeting individuals and requiring that corporations provide significant information on employee conduct to receive credit for cooperating with the government. The Yates Memo states, "[t]o be eligible for any cooperation credit, corporations must provide to the Department all relevant facts about the individuals involved in corporate misconduct." 

According to reports, Rosenstein said, "It is under review, and I anticipate that there may be some changes to the policy on corporate prosecutions."  It is unclear how far the review extends or whether possible changes extend beyond the Yates Memo and include revisions to the larger Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations contained in the U.S.A.M. Whatever changes are made, it is unlikely that the focus on individuals will diminish. Attorney General Sessions has publicly commented on his commitment to holding individuals accountable for corporate misconduct. We will have to wait, therefore, to see whether significant changes or mere reiterations of current policy priorities are on the horizon.  

(LED)

September 16, 2017 in Deferred Prosecution Agreements, Investigations, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

DOJ Ends Third Party Settlement Practice - But What is No Longer Allowed?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a press release today here putting an end to settlements that had payments to third parties as a condition of settlement. The press release says that " [w]ith this directive, we are ending this practice and ensuring that settlement funds are only used to compensate victims, redress harm, and punish and deter unlawful conduct.”  

Will this mean that Chris Christie's agreement as US Attorney with Bristol-Myers Squibb and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey that included an endowment of an ethics chair to Seton Hall Law School, will no longer be allowed in future agreements(see here, here, and here - see para. 20)? 

And will all the groups receiving funds from the BP Plea Agreement find that innovative resolutions will no longer be allowed in the future agreements?  For example the BP plea agreement included $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences for the purposes of Oil Spill prevention and response in the Gulf of Mexico. (see here)  The Court stated there -

"The National Academy of Sciences is required to use the funds to advance scientific and technical understanding to improve the safety of offshore oil drilling, production and transportation in the Gulf of Mexico." 

"Of course, the Court realizes that the fines and other penalties provided by the plea agreement can do nothing to restore the lives of the 11 men who were killed. But in the payment to the National Academy of Sciences, the agreement at least directs money towards preventing similar tragedies in the future. That the bulk of the payments to be made under the plea agreement are directed toward restoring the Gulf Coast and preventing future disasters, contributes to the reasonableness of the plea agreement."

AG Sessions says that "[u]nder the last Administration, the Department repeatedly required settling parties to pay settlement funds to third party community organizations that were not directly involved in the litigation or harmed by the defendant’s conduct.  Pursuant to the Attorney General’s memorandum, this practice will immediately stop."

It remains to be seen what will get included and what will be omitted in future non-prosecution, deferred prosecution, and plea agreements.  The actual memo is here.

(esp) 

June 7, 2017 in Civil Enforcement, Deferred Prosecution Agreements, Environment, News, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Saint Jim Had To Go: Rod Rosenstein Should Stay Put.

I imagine we will know more about Rod Rosenstein's Memo, and its timing in connection with FBI Director Comey's firing, later this week. Based on the publicly available information, it appears that that when Rosenstein met with the President last Monday he was asked for his views on Saint Jim. Rosenstein no doubt articulated his disapproval of Director Comey's appallingly improper conduct during the 2016 election, a disapproval shared by legions of current and former DOJ prosecutors and FBI Special Agents. He was asked to memorialize his thoughts in a memo, and given a quick turnaround time. If this is how it played out, there was nothing wrong with the President's question, nothing wrong with Rosenstein's answer, nothing wrong with the President's request for a memo, nothing wrong with Rosenstein's decision to obey the request, and nothing wrong with the resulting memo itself. Nothing at all. Comey's conduct, as Rosenstein's Memo makes clear, was a gross deviation from standard DOJ practices, a clear overstepping of authority, and an improper smearing of an American citizen who just happened to be a major political candidate. As devoted readers of this Blog no doubt remember, I detailed Director Comey's myriad shortcomings here just after the election. To make matters worse, Director Comey refused to acknowledge his mistakes and improprieties and continued to publicly justify his shocking behavior in increasingly bizarre fashion. Some have suggested that Rosenstein's Memo "reads like an op-ed" or is "deeply troubling." I expect this kind of nonsense from the political opposition and the resisters, but when I see it from former colleagues of Rosenstein it makes we want to puke. The President is Rosenstein's superior. He asked for Rosenstein's opinion. He asked for Rosenstein to memorialize his thoughts in writing on a fast timetable. Each of these was a reasonable request. Should Rosenstein have refused the request, protesting that he needed more time to prepare a memo? He didn't need more time to detail Comey's indiscretions. Any schoolboy or schoolgirl reasonably competent in Civics could have done so.

The problems arose with what happened next. When Rosenstein learned that the White House was disseminating a false version of events to the effect that Comey's firing was solely the result of Rosenstein's Memo, he is reported to have quickly complained to the White House Counsel that he did not want the facts massaged and would not be comfortable staying in an Administration where this was happening. Translation: "Tell the President's people to quit lying. Stop the phony stories now." And the phony stories stopped. Then the President, in his typical foot-in-mouth way, admitted that Comey's handling of, and public comments about, the Russia investigation played a part in the firing. Think about that for a moment. Because of Rosenstein's status and sterling reputation, a reputation much ballyhooed by the Trumpistas, the President's people were forced to instantly and embarrassingly change their false narrative, and the President stumbled into another unforced error. That would not have been possible if the DAG had been a hack or mere factotum. Of course, Rosenstein could have decided to resign. Instead he demanded the truth and got it. It is a judgment call and I don't blame him at all for making the call he did, two weeks into the job.

Make no mistake, there is going to be a thorough investigation of Russian Collusion, either within Main Justice or by a Special Counsel. There are many good reasons for keeping the investigation in-house, as Rosenstein should know having served (along with me) in an Independent Counsel's Office. There are great inefficiencies and delays involved in setting up and running a Special Counsel operation. In disputes between such an office and an uncooperative Executive Branch, who would you rather see the President opposing? A Special Counsel, who he can demonize, or his own DAG, who he has already praised as a man of impeccable integrity? The scarier President Trump gets, the more I need the people around him to be sound, sane, and steady professionals. I want to see people like McMaster, Mattis, and Rosenstein at their stations.

As a matter of public relations, the President's unforced error will make it more difficult for Rosenstein to resist the calls for a Special Counsel. If President Trump's inappropriate comments about the investigation pile up, more and more citizens will be prone to see any declination by the DAG as a whitewash or a cover-up. So keep talking Mr. President. The more you complain about the Russia Investigation, the likelier you are to get a Special Counsel for all of your efforts. Meanwhile, were I Rosenstein, I would react to every Presidential criticism of the investigation with a renewed determination to leave no stone unturned. Hunker down Rod. Your country needs you.

(wisenberg)

May 15, 2017 in Current Affairs, Government Reports, Investigations, Obstruction, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

ABA White Collar Crime Conference - Title IX

This is the first time the ABA White Collar Crime Conference had a panel focused on "Due Process on Today's Campus: Handling IX Abuse and Harassment Cases."  Moderating this conference was Marcos Hasbun.  Panelists were Carolina Meta, Thomas C. Shanahan, and Hon. Nancy Gertner.  Many may think this is outside the scope of white collar criminal matters, but attorneys in the white collar area are often involved in the internal investigations for schools and criminal defense counsel can be called on in representation of clients - both individuals accused and victims.

Hon. Nancy Gertner noted that this was initially regulation guidance that was not issued with notice and comment.  It has had earth shattering consequences, as described by Hon Nancy Gertner. The preponderance of the evidence standard being used was noted. But unlike ordinary civil cases, you don't have discovery.  The panel discussed the "Dear Colleague" letter. She also noted the mandated procedures is how it has played out. Thomas Shanahan discussed the parallel proceedings that can occur with law enforcement and the university disciplinary proceeding.

It was noted that the university is under a mandate to move things along in 60 days. It was also noted that case lines are developing on two different tracks, including those arguing the denial of due process rights by the university.

Some argued that the process is focused on due process rights of the individuals making the accusation.  But it was also noted that some states, like North Carolina, permits counsel during the proceedings for the respondent.  It was noted it can be beneficial for counsel for the respondent to get the outside lawyer involved.

(esp)

March 8, 2017 in Defense Counsel, News, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 White Collar Crime Awards

Each year this blog has honored individuals and organizations for their work in the white collar crime arena by bestowing "The Collar" on those who deserve praise, scorn, acknowledgment, blessing, curse, or whatever else might be appropriate. With the appropriate fanfare, and without further ado, The Collars for 2016:

The Collar for the Best Left Hand Turn – To the Supreme Court following Justice Scalia’s death in affirming both insider trading and bank fraud convictions.

The Collar for Failing to Deliver the Goods – To the government for prosecuting Fed Ex and then needing to dismiss the case following opening statements. 

The Collar for Needing New Glasses – To James Comey so that he can read Agency policy to not do anything election related within 60 days of an election. 

The Collar for Sports MVP – To the world of tennis, which stole some of the focus from FIFA this year with the BBC's allegations of significant match-fixing.

The Collar for Slow and Steady – To Britain's Serious Fraud Office, which, after announcing the implementation of DPAs in October 2012, entered into its first DPA in November 2015 and its second in July 2016. 

The Collar for Quick and Steady – To the DOJ, which, according to Professor Brandon Garrett’s website, has entered into well over 100 DPAs and NPAs since October 2012. 

The Collar for Best Reading of this Blog– To the Supreme Court in reversing Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s conviction, this blog’s 2015 case of most needing review.

The Collar for the Longest Attempt to Justify a DecisionTo the 11th Circuit for its 124-page decision in United States v. Clay that attempts to justify how “deliberate indifference” meets the Global Tech standard.

The Collar for Worst Schmoozing at an Airport To former President Bill Clinton for causing AG Loretta Lynch to accept the FBI’s decision-making after Bill Clinton came abroad her airplane. 

 The Collar for the Most Underreported Settlement – To Trump University’s agreement to pay $25 million settlement in the Trump University case.

 The Collar for Mandating Corporate Backstabbing To Deputy AG Sally Yates, who keeps insisting her memo that promoted a corporate divide from its constituents – widely referred to as the “Yates Memo” -- should be called the Individual Accountability Policy.

 The Collar for the Pre-mature Weiner Release – To James Comey for his overly excited announcement about the former Congressman’s emails.

The Collar for Community Service to Russia – To all those who failed to investigate and release reports on computer hacking that caused the release of information during the election.

The Collar for the Quickest Backpeddling – To Rudy Giuliani for “clarifying” his statement that he knew about a confidential FBI investigation related to Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The Collar for Best Game of Hide and Seek – To Donald J. Trump for explaining that he could not release his already-filed tax returns because he was under an IRS audit.

The Collar for Best Self-Serving Confession – To the Russian Sports Federation for admitting there was systematic doping of Olympic athletes (but Putin didn't know about it).

The Collar for Quickest Recantation (aka the "Mea Culpa Collar") – To DOJ Chief Leslie Caldwell for criticizing overly aggressive AUSAs at a Federalist Society function and apologizing to DOJ attorneys a few days later.

The Collar for Best Judicial Watchdog – To Judge George Levi Russell III of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland for his post-trial decision reversing the conviction of Reddy Annappareddy and dismissing the indictment with prejudice based on prosecutorial misconduct.

The Collar for Never Giving In – To Josh Greenberg and Mark Schamel who tirelessly and brilliantly represented Reddy Annappareddy post-trial and secured his freedom.

The Collar for Best Money Laundering  – To the New York City and Los Angeles real estate developers who sell eight-figure condo apartments to anonymous LLP's owned by foreign officials and their families.

The Collar for the Best Child – To Don Siegelman’s daughter, who continues to fight to “Free Don.”

The Collar for the Best Parent – Retired years ago and renamed the Bill Olis Best Parent Award –not awarded again this year since no one comes even close to Bill Olis, may he rest in peace.

(wisenberg), (goldman), (esp)

December 30, 2016 in About This Blog, Current Affairs, Deferred Prosecution Agreements, Government Reports, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, Money Laundering, News, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Josh Greenberg, U.S. v. Annappareddy Hero, Opens New Firm.

Readers of this Blog are no doubt familiar with United States v. Reddy Annappareddy, the District of Maryland case in which a guilty verdict was overturned (and new trial granted) with the grudging, belated concurrence of government prosecutors, because the government presented false testimony to the jury. The indictment was then dismissed with prejudice, over government objection, due to the government's destruction of potentially relevant evidence and the trial court's finding of prosecutorial misconduct.  All of this was the result of the tireless and brilliant work of Annappareddy's post-trial attorneys, Josh Greenberg and Mark Schamel of Womble Carlyle.  See my prior posts herehereherehere, and here. Since my last post, the government moved to withdraw its appeal, the Fourth Circuit granted the motion, and the mandate has issued. 

Now, Josh Greenberg, who played a key role in devising and implementing the post-trial strategy, has decided to open his own shop, focusing on white collar criminal defense, civil litigation, and appeals. Congratulations to Josh. We wish him the best.

(wisenberg)

December 2, 2016 in Defense Counsel, Judicial Opinions, Legal Ethics, News, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Where is FBI Director Comey Now?

We have been critical of FBI Director Comey's comments (see here and here) during the email investigations of Hillary Clinton.  On a positive note, it was good to see him pull together the FBI for a quick review of Hillary Clinton's emails after his missteps, although this should never have been necessary if commenting during the election had not initially occurred. 

But one has to wonder what kind of investigation has been occurring on the overarching problem - email hacking that is reported to be coming from outside the United States that disrupts and influences a U.S. election. (see here) The integrity of elections is crucial and a failure to assure that integrity is maintained is of the utmost importance.  So where is FBI Director Comey now, and why are we hearing nothing about this important investigation?

The NYMag.com is reporting here that "academics presented findings showing that in Wisconsin, Clinton received 7 percent fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic-voting machines compared with counties that used optical scanners and paper ballots."  In light of prior hacking of the DNC and the release of emails of individuals associated with Hillary Clinton, one would think the FBI would be conducting an immediate investigation to assure voters of the integrity of our election process. So where is FBI Director James Comey now? 

(esp)

  

November 22, 2016 in News, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Some Additional Thoughts on the McDonnell Decision

I agree with my colleague Prof. Podgor that DOJ made the "right decision" to drop the prosecution of former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell.  Under the narrow definition of "official act" given by the Supreme Court  a re-prosecution was doomed.   I further agree with Prof. Podgor that McDonnell's legal team, led by Hank Asbill and Noel Francisco, deserves plaudits for its determined and outstanding lawyering.

I do not, however, criticize DOJ for bringing this case.  McDonnell's acts - accepting $175,000 in money and gifts in exchange for favorable treatment for the donor - although ultimately determined not to be "official acts" and thus not criminal, were unseemly and corrupt.  That the Commonwealth of Virginia, in its wisdom or lack of it, chose not to criminalize such activity to me was a reason for federal prosecution, not for abstention.  To be sure, the government should have been aware that there was Supreme Court case law arguably undermining its position.  On balance, the egregiousness of McDonnell's conduct, I believe, justified a prosecution, even if it "pushed the envelope."

The McDonnell decision will allow federal prosecutions of politicians accepting things of value for favorable votes or actions on legislation or favorable decisions awarding governmental appointments, contracts and benefits, the areas within which most corruption cases fall.  It will, however, eliminate or preclude almost any prosecution for payments to officials for access, referrals and introductions, allowing donors an advantage over non-payers.   "Pay-for-play" systems do not guarantee winning a contract, but do allow one to be among those considered - a giant and necessary step.   Thus, the decision will, like Citizens United, most benefit the rich, powerful and politically-connected.

I, like many others, was surprised by the unanimity of the court.  Although I am no expert on Supreme Court internal politicking, I suspect some justices might have gone along with the decision to prevent a broader decision which would have greatly limited, or even eliminated,  federal prosecutions of state and local corruption, either by finding the term "official acts" constitutionally void for vagueness, or on federalism grounds.  In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts mentioned, but did not rule on, both considerations. 

I cannot dismiss an undiscussed "elephant in the room," alluded to by Prof. Podgor.   The American election system commonly allows campaign contributions to be rewarded by at the least access to elected and appointed officials.  It is extremely doubtful whether McDonnell would have been prosecuted for accepting campaign contributions and rewarding the donor with access to state officials.  It seems to me extremely difficult to make a lawful/unlawful distinction between situations involving gifts to politicians for their personal use, as in McDonnell, and those involving gifts to politicians for campaign purposes.   Absent such a distinction, an affirmance of McDonnell might have led to cases concerning campaign contributions, which might have led to an upheaval in campaign financing practices generally accepted in America.   Thus, it is not surprising that a host of former Counsels to the President and Attorneys General submitted amicus briefs in support of McDonnell, a fact noted with apparent respect in the opinion.

Lastly, I wonder whether the Court was wary of allowing federal prosecutors expansive power to prosecute political officeholders.  There is always a danger - at least theoretical - that a prosecutor will misuse her power to indict political opponents, as is not infrequently done in foreign nations, and perhaps occasionally done in the United States.  It may well be that the case should be considered primarily as a limitation of prosecutorial and executive branch power.

 

September 12, 2016 in Corruption, Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Judicial Opinions, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Statutes | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Declining to Re-Prosecute McDonnell - The Right Decision

As noted here by Solomon Wisenberg, DOJ moved to remand the case against Robert F. McDonnell to the district court in order to dismiss the indictment with prejudice. Many in the media have reported about this dismissal (e.g., Washington Post here, USA Today here)  The Washington Post states that this results from a "new legal definition" being given to public corruption (Washington Post).  While others criticize the Supreme Court with comments such as "[w]e are now seeing that the Supreme Court's decision will in fact result in corrupt conduct going unpunished, just as we feared it would." See Statement here - Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. 

But some media and critics are missing the point here.  The McDonnell decision was not a close call - it was a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court.  There were no dissents.

This is not a case that puts a stop to prosecuting bribery and extortion cases.  The law clearly allows such prosecutions and there have been many such prosecutions without reversals.

The McDonnell case was one we see too many times, where prosecutors push the envelope and prosecute conduct that does not meet the statute.   And Hank Asbill, Noel Francisco, and the rest of McDonnell's legal team did a wonderful job showing this.  

Elected officials who corruptly take money or items of value for an official act can be prosecuted. And prosecutors need to focus on bringing cases that meet the language of this statute.  But the receipt of money or items of value alone are not a crime. If a politician's merely taking money is considered to be a crime, then politicians would be unable to accept any campaign contributions. And although many may find this result good - it is not the law.

So, DOJ should be applauded for making the right decision here. Spending more time or money on a case that does not meet the legal mandates is a poor choice of how to spend limited resources. What is particularly outstanding on the part of DOJ here is that they issued a press release stating, ""[a]fter carefully considering the Supreme Court's recent decision and the principles of federal prosecution, we have made the decision not to pursue the case further." 

It is rare that DOJ issues a press release noting a not guilty verdict, a court dismissal, or something other than an indictment or conviction.  It is hopeful that what DOJ has done with the McDonnell case, of issuing a statement of dismissal, will be replicated in non-white collar cases.

(esp)

September 8, 2016 in Corruption, Judicial Opinions, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Breaking News: DOJ Abandons McDonnell Prosecution Efforts

It's now official. Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife Maureen will not be retried and all charges are to be dropped. The Washington Post has the story here. It is unclear whether Main Justice overruled the EDVA or caused that office to change its mind regarding proceeding to a second trial. More analysis to come.

(wisenberg)

September 8, 2016 in Corruption, Current Affairs, Judicial Opinions, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

U.S. v. Reddy Annappareddy: What The Judge Saw

Finally, as promised, here is the U.S. v. Reddy Annappareddy 9-1-16 Motion to Dismiss Hearing Transcript. At the conclusion of that hearing Judge George Levi Russell dismissed the Indictment with prejudice. Judge Russell's rationale for his ruling can be found at pages 49-62 of the transcript. This was a health care fraud case and a core government theory was that Mr. Annappareddy received Medicaid reimbursement for pills that were never given to patients. The government sought to prove its theory by showing that Mr. Annappareddy's pharmacies billed for more pills than they received. The most significant evidence that the prosecutors offered in support of this allegation was a calculation of the purported “loss” from the alleged fraud. The following factors were key to the Court's finding that the government committed due process violations that shocked the conscience and rendered it impossible to put Mr. Annappareddy back on an even footing with the government: 1) the government violated Brady by failing to disclose loss calculations from its initial auditing team that were significantly smaller (in total and with respect to two key pharmacies) than the calculations of a subsequent government auditor who testified at trial; 2) the government violated Brady by failing to disclose the risk of double-counting errors in the loss calculations; 3) the government presented false testimony regarding the loss calculations due to double counting errors; 4) the government presented false testimony by a government agent, based on her examination of the wrong set of phone records, that Mr. Annappareddy had NOT made any calls to a key individual in response to a material email from that individual, when in fact Annappareddy had several phone contacts with the individual within minutes of the material email; and 5) the government destroyed potentially key exculpatory evidence without a court order or the defense's permission. The Court also sent a not so subtle warning to the government: "In the event that my record is not clear or exercise of my discretion too broad, this Court will conduct an extensive time-consuming and costly hearing as to these matters and the other grounds supporting the motion to dismiss and other motions which have already been filed. To that end, the balance of all other motions in this case are denied as moot." Translation: If you appeal this ruling and I am reversed, we will delve in detail into the other grounds of error raised by the defense. And it will not be a pleasant process. Hat Tip to David Debold of Gibson Dunn for sending along the transcript.

(wisenberg)

 

September 7, 2016 in Current Affairs, Defense Counsel, Judicial Opinions, Legal Ethics, Obstruction, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0)