Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Guts and the DC Bar Counsel: The Case of Andrew J. Kline

by: Solomon L. Wisenberg

We all make mistakes. We are all flawed. It is a relatively rare prosecutor who has not committed, overseen, or sufferred on his watch some kind of Brady error somewhere along the way. Usually it is unintentional. Prosecutors are not naturally inclined or oriented to sniff out Brady materials. (They are paid to win.) And case law is clear. Brady error occurs irrespective of prosecutorial knowledge or intent. Indeed, defense attorneys are trained to make Brady arguments that do not impugn the integrity of prosecutors. This is because most judges, particularly federal judges, do not like to see personal attacks on prosecutors.

But then there are the egregious cases-- blatantly obvious examples of Brady/Giglio materials that should have been, but were not, disclosed to the defense. What is the bar to do when confronted with such cases? One thing is clear. Congress to date has not had the guts to deal with this problem. The Department of Justice lacks both the guts and inclination to do anything about it. Do you doubt me for one moment? You only have to look at the pathetic administrative punishment meted out to the Ted Stevens line prosecutors, and the complete whitewash of their superiors. You only have to search the DOJ website for DOJ-OPR's Report on the Stevens debacle. Hint--you won't find it there.

What is the solution to the persistent blight of jaw-droppingly obvious Brady/Giglio violations? One solution is to bring ethical complaints against purportedly miscreant prosecutors in appropriate instances. Which brings us to the case of former DC AUSA Andrew J. Kline, currently making its way through the bar disciplinary process.The BLT has posted on the Kline case here and here. DC Bar Counsel wants Kline censured for an alleged Brady/Giglio violation that also runs afoul, according to Bar Counsel, of the arguably broader Rule 3.8(e) of the DC Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 3.8(e) states in pertinent part that: "The prosecutor in a criminal case shall not . . . intentionally fail to disclose to the defense, upon request and at a time when use by the defense is reasonably feasible, any evidence or information that the prosecutor knows or reasonably should know tends to negate the guilt of the accused . . . ."

The defense bar often talks about using various state versions of Rule 3.8(e) in tandem with Brady/Giglio, in part to get around the Brady/Giglio materiality problem. Here is a Bar Counsel actually doing something about it. Kline vigorously denies that the withheld information was material or that he intentionally engaged in any wrongdoing.

What information did Kline actually withhold? He was prosecuting Arnell Shelton for the shooting of Christopher Boyd. Shelton had filed an alibi notice and "the reliability of the government's identification witnesses" was the principal issue at the 2002 trial, according to the Report and Recommendation of Hearing Committee Number Nine ("Report and Recommendation"). Kline spoke with Metropolitan Police Department Officer Edward Woodward in preparation for trial. Kline took contemporaneous notes. Woodward was the first officer at the scene of the crime and spoke to victim Boyd at the hospital shortly after the shooting.

According to the Report and Recommendation, Kline's notes of his conversation with Woodward were, in pertinent part, as follows: "Boyd told officer at hospital that he did not know who shot him–appeared maybe to not want to cooperate at the time. He was in pain and this officer had arrested him for possession of a machine gun …"

At trial Boyd identified Shelton as the shooter. According to Bar Counsel, Kline never disclosed Boyd's hospital statement to the defense despite a specific Brady/Giglio request for impeachment material. The other identification witnesses were weak and/or impeachable.

The case ended in a hung jury mistrial and the alleged Brady material (that is, Boyd's hospital statement to Woodward) was not revealed to the defense until literally the eve of the second trial, even though DC-OUSA prosecutors and supervisors had known about it for some time. When the trial court found out about the hospital statement and that it had not been disclosed before the first trial because Kline did not consider it exculpatory, the court was thunderstruck: "I don’t see how any prosecutor could take that position. . . I don’t see how any prosecutor anywhere in any state in the country, could say I don’t have to turn that over because I think I know why he said that." See DC Bar Counsel's corrected Brief at 8.

The court offered defense counsel a continuance, but she elected to go to trial as her client was then in jail. The second trial ended in Shelton's conviction.

Kline's position now is that the hospital statement was not material, hence not Brady, because Boyd was in pain and being treated for a gunshot wound at the time and because Shelton was ultimately convicted upon retrial.

Bar Counsel's position is that the withheld hospital statement was material and exculpatory and therefore Brady material, but that even if it was not Brady material, the failure to turn it over violated Rule 3.8(e). Bar Counsel seeks a public censure of Mr. Kline.

DOJ argues, via the DC U.S. Attorney's Office amicus brief, that DC Rule 3.8(e) is no broader than Brady. This is not a surprising or frivolous argument. What is surprising is DOJ's position that Boyd's withheld hospital statement was not material under Brady. DOJ is taking this position at the same time it is trying to convince Congress and the Courts that it can be trusted to discipline and police prosecutors for discovery violations. Is anybody watching?

A further subject for investigation is the decision of DC-OUSA supervisors to withhold the Boyd hospital statement until the evening before the retrial. Let's see if DOJ takes the lead on that.

DC Bar Counsel and Hearing Committee Nine should be commended for addressing this issue. Oral Argument is scheduled to take place before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility on October 11, 2012, at 2:00 PM in Courtroom II of the Historic Courthouse of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, located at 430 E Street NW.

(wisenberg) 

October 9, 2012 in Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Defense Witness Immunity & Global Tech - Important Issues on Cert

An interesting issue is presented to the Supreme Court on cert - defense witness immunity.  The case of Walton v. the United States presents an issue that has plagued many a defense counsel - what do you do when you have a critical defense witness who will not testify without immunity. The government has the ability to give a witness immunity and often they do so in criminal cases to secure cooperation for the prosecution.  But shouldn't the defense also be allowed this immunity when the evidence that would be offered is exculpatory to the defendant? This cert petition presents strong arguments showing the differing views among the circuits on defense witness immunity.

The Walton Petition also has a post-Global Tech issue. (for background on Global Tech, see here and here).  The obvious is argued - Global Tech applies to criminal cases. The Court used criminal law doctrine in deciding the case, so of course it should apply to criminal law decisions.  I am covering Global Tech in both criminal law and white collar crime classes because it summarizes the law on willful blindness. If the Court was using this criminal standard for a civil case and remarking that this is how it gets handled criminally, therefore, of course, it must be the appropriate standard for a criminal case.  Even in his dissent, Justice Kennedy notes that "[t]he Court appears to endorse the willful blindness doctrine here for all federal criminal cases involving knowledge."  He didn't like that they were doing this, but it was pretty clear that this is what they did. This cert petition, if granted, will send this message loudly and clearly to the Fifth Circuit. 

Filing a separate cert petition is James Brooks.  Argued here by attorneys Gerald H. Goldstein and Cynthia Eve Hujar Orr are that "[t]he jury instructions here not only failed to require that Brooks take deliberate steps to blind himself to the illegal purpose of his conduct, but additionally instructed the jury that he did not need to 'know' or even suspect that his conduct was unlawful."Global Tech clearly requires both.    

Petition for Cert for Walton - filed by the law firm of Gerger & Clarke - Download Petition for Writ of Certiorari

Petition for Cert for Brookes - Download Brooks Petition for Writ of Certiorari 

NACDL Amicus Brief for Brooks and Walton - authored by Attorney John D. Cline - Download NACDL--Brooks-Walton amicus 

(esp)

October 7, 2012 in Judicial Opinions, Privileges, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Health Care Fraud - DOJ Carries Through on Promise

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force activities of yesterday were impressive (see here), but not new for the present AG's office. AG Holder promised  that health care fraud would be a priority, and he has carried through with this promise. In this recent instance we are seeing 91 individuals being indicted across the country in a massive "Medicare Fraud Takedown." Assistant AG Lanny Breuer stated that "[t]his represents one of the largest Medicare fraud takedowns in Department history, as measured by the amount of alleged fraudulent billings." AG Holder noted that "[s]ince the first Strike Force was launched in 2007, these teams have charged nearly 1,500 defendants for falsely billing the Medicare program more than $4.8 billion." 

Although I have not counted them, I can note that the DOJ press releases coming through my emails definitely support their claim that health care fraud has been a top priority for this DOJ.

Some may argue that those being indicted here are not the real offenders in the system - after all, how many lower level individuals get caught in instances of trying to do what they think is required of them in their job. But two things come from any large scale prosecution such as this one: 1) with convictions will come general deterrence - in that they will be sending a message to others in the system that fraudulent conduct will not be tolerated; and 2) through these indictments, are likely to come more prosecutions as individuals plead guilty and offer to cooperate with the government.

(esp)

October 5, 2012 in Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Deferred Prosecution Agreements - Definitely A Plus

On September 13th Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer spoke to the New York City Bar extolling the virtues of DOJ's strategy for corporate prosecutions (see here). Former co-blogger Peter Henning here, also authored an article which focuses on the use of deferred prosecution agreements by the government.

One clearly has to credit the government with raising the bar in the corporate world to comply with legal mandates. Corporations throughout the world now have strong compliance programs and conduct internal investigations when questionable activities are reported to them.  Likewise, post-Arthur Andersen, LLP, corporations are shy to go to trial - although there are some who have done so successfully (e.g. Lindsey Manufacturing- see here).

When the government first started using deferred and non-prosecution agreements, in a prior administration, there were government practices that were questionable.  For example, allowing for huge sums to money to go to a former attorney general as a monitor, giving a chair to a law school that happened to be the same school the US Attorney graduated from, and negotiating for continuing work with the government as part of the agreement. (see Zierdt & Podgor, Corporate Deferred Prosecutions Through the Looking Glass of Contract Policing-here)  Without doubt there were terms within the agreements that needed revision. Some terms that give complete control to prosecutors in deciding who can determine breaches of agreements present problems. But many of the questionable practices are not seen in recent deferred prosecution agreements, and this is good. 

Agreements that still provide an imbalance between corporate misbehavior and individual miscoduct is creates an imbalance, but much of this is created by the fact that corporations have greater resources and can control the discussion with DOJ, to the detriment of the individual. Clearly there needs to be a better recognition of corporate constituents during the internal investigations, the subject of a forthcoming article that I author with Professor Bruce Green (Fordham) titled, Unregulated Internal Investigations: Achieving Fairness for Corporate Constituents.  But this issue may not be one strictly for DOJ to resolve.

What is particularly impressive about the DOJ use of deferred prosecution agreements today is that it uses an educative model to reform corporate misconduct. One can't put a corporation in prison, so with fines as the best alternative it is important to focus on motivating good conduct.  Corporate deferred and non-prosecution agreements are an important step in achieving this positive result.  So, it is important to credit today's DOJ with how it is tackling the problem of corporate misbehavior.

(esp)  

September 24, 2012 in Deferred Prosecution Agreements, Investigations, News, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Prosecutors As Collection Agents: A Disingenuous Artifice?

by: Solomon L. Wisenberg

This front page story from Sunday's New York Times details the sleazy nationwide scam cooked up by debt collection agencies and local prosecutors to pry funds from American citizens through misleading, threatening letters. People who write bad checks are sent threatening letters signed by local district attorneys. In reality the district attorneys are just renting out their letterhead to the debt collectors. The typical letter warns the recipient that he has been "accused" of a crime, but can avoid "the possibility of future action" by the District Attorney's Office if he pays off the bounced check and attends a financial accountability class. The class can cost as much as $180.00 and a small portion of that fee is kicked back from the debt collectors to the District Attorney. In almost all instances, no prosecutor has ever looked at a case file, much less examined whether the individual had criminal intent. The letters may be literally truthful, in the Clintonian sense, but they are undoubtedly misleading. They are a scheme. They are sent through the mail. Perhaps AG Holder can launch an investigation to determine whether this conduct constitutes federal mail fraud. It seems right up his alley, since most debt collection agencies are, relatively speaking, small-scale operations. In many jurisdictions it is a crime to threaten criminal action in order to gain advantage in a civil matter. But I guess it's okay if you team up with the local prosecutor. More than ever our state and federal prosecutorial authorities seem to be acting as collection agencies for big businesses. Kind of sad considering we are still mired in recession.

(wisenberg)

September 19, 2012 in Fraud, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Strong Language to Court Clerk Leads to Jail

by: Lawrence S. Goldman

Cursing has become a common part of the speech of many Americans, and the f-word is frequently used in its non-sexual meaning as a stronger substitute for "hell" to emphasize the speaker's extreme displeasure or anger, as in "get the f--- off."  However uncivil, even if used in inappropriate settings, the mere utterance of the word is unlikely to lead to arrest or imprisonment, in large part because of First Amendment protection.

Apparently, however, using such a word in complaining to a federal court clerk about the judge, even outside the presence of the judge, may be treated more seriously.   As reported in the National Law Journal (see here), Robert Peoples, a disgruntled and seemingly difficult pro se plaintiff, after learning that a South Carolina district judge had summarily dismissed one of his cases because of his lateness to court, outside the presence of the judge told a clerk that the judge should "get the f--- off all my cases."  The next day the judge initiated a criminal proceeding for contempt. 

At a bench trial before a judge from a different district, the defense contended that Peoples' statements did not obstruct the administration of justice.  The trial court rejected that argument, finding that Peoples' behavior had affected the administration of justice because "courtroom personnel . . . were temporarily delayed in conducting their routine business" in order to deal with him.  Peoples has appealed to the Fourth Circuit, where the matter is sub judice.

It is doubtful that Peoples would have been prosecuted but for his use of a four-letter word.  If merely complaining about a judge to a clerk, even vociferously, so that a clerk temporarily abandons her work constitutes contempt, many pro se litigants, and some lawyers, might be doing jail time.

The contempt power is a privilege special to judges, a vestige of the extraordinary ceremonial stature afforded them, as exemplified by the bailiff's order that all rise to honor the judge's entrance into a courtroom, the enthronement of the judge in a seat higher than all others, and the clerical black robe.  The contempt power is sometimes used, and not infrequently abused, especially in the lower state courts, to jail summarily a difficult litigant.  In my view, it should rarely, if ever, be employed to punish an unruly litigant not engaging in physical violence and if so only after due warning.  Indeed, many judges I know proudly claim that they have never held a litigant (or attorney) in contempt.

The limited issues raised by the defendant in his brief to the Fourth Circuit do not concern whether judges deserve this special treatment.  Nor does the appeal concern any matter of special or constitutional importance, including any that might free up use of the f-word, or limit punishment for doing so.  Lawyers and litigants should still be careful to control their language in complaints about judges to court personnel.

(goldman)

September 13, 2012 in Contempt, Obstruction, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

IRS Whistleblower Birkenfeld Hits The Jackpot

Reuters reports here on the astounding award. Yours truly and other luminaries are quoted.

(wisenberg)

September 11, 2012 in Investigations, Prosecutions, Qui Tam, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The DOJ: In Action or Inaction?

Here is an interesting piece from the Washington Examiner's Mark Tapscott, commenting on the Government Accountability Institute's new report, Justice Inaction: The Department of Justice's Unprecedented Failure to Prosecute Big Finance. According to Tapscott, the GAI "has concluded that conflicts of interest among President Obama's top Department of Justice appointees may explain why nobody on Wall Street has been prosecuted by the government following the economic meltdown of 2008." Notice those weasel words--may explain. I haven't read the report yet, but I'm not buying GAI's theory. DOJ's stunning failure to prosecute elite financial control fraud is coming from a pay grade much higher than Holder's.

(wisenberg)

August 11, 2012 in Fraud, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 10, 2012

50 Former Prosecutors (And Judges) Can't Be Wrong

The BLT reports here on the amicus brief filed by former federal prosecutors and judges in Ali Shaygan v. United States. At issue is whether the government can be fined and sanctioned under the Hyde Act, which covers vexatious, frivolous, or bad faith prosecutions, when the charges brought have an objectively reasonable basis in fact. In other words, can federal prosecutors act out of improper motives of bad faith and malice if they have a pretextual fig leaf to cover their actions? The WSJ Law Blog reports here on the brief, which was signed by yours truly, and greater lights.

(wisenberg)

August 10, 2012 in Judicial Opinions, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

DOJ's Fraud Protection Racket

Here is an excellent story by Michael S. Schmidt and Edward Wyatt in today's New York Times about DOJ's pathetic track record in prosecuting and convicting individual high profile fraudsters in connection with the financial crisis. Instead, companies pay whatever it takes by way of civil and (sometimes) criminal penalties in order to move on. For most of these companies it is a cost of doing business and a drop in the bucket. Make no mistake about it, the failure of this Administration's Justice Department to go after individual criminal fraud at the highest levels of the private sector is a decision that has been made at the highest levels of the public sector. The article quotes Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West as follows: “There is a lot of behavior that makes us angry but which is not necessarily illegal. If the evidence is there, we won’t hesitate to bring those cases.” Sorry Mr. West, but the most charitable interpretation of your remarks is that you don't know what the hell you're talking about.

(wisenberg)

August 8, 2012 in Fraud, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

None Dare Call It Misconduct: Except For The Second Circuit

And there it is. Right on page 24 of the Second Circuit's opinion in U.S. V. Mahaffy, posted here yesterday. "None of this [the government's various rationales for withholding exculpatory and/or impeaching SEC transcripts] excuses the government's misconduct. The transcripts contained substantial Brady material, much of which was easily identified as such." In fact, an SEC attorney, cross-designated as a Special AUSA in the first squawk-box trial, identified some of the material as potential Brady to his trial team superiors before the first trial commenced. 

Here are some interesting dates. Jury selection in the squawk-box retrial began on March 30, 2009. The government rested on April 14, 2009, as did the defense. The jury returned its verdict on April 22. Ted Stevens had been found guilty in Washington DC in October 2008 and, as Judge Sullivan has noted, "[d]uring the course of the five-week jury trial and for several months following the trial there were serious allegations and confirmed instances of prosecutorial misconduct that called into question the integrity of the criminal proceedings against Senator Stevens." Attorney General Holder moved to set aside the Ted Stevens verdict and dismiss the indictment with prejudice due to gross Brady-related misconduct on April 1, 2009. Judge Sullivan granted the government's motion on April 7, 2009. According to the Mahaffy opinion, the second set of squawk-box prosecutors deliberately chose not to revisit any of the disclosure decisions made by the first trial team. New York prosecutors must not read the DC papers.They did not start to sift through the SEC transcripts until after the second trial concluded.

(wisenberg)

August 7, 2012 in Judicial Opinions, Legal Ethics, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Securities | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Brady Violations. Again.

Here is the Second Circuit's opinion (U.S. v. Mahaffy) from last Thursday in the EDNY's Squawk-Box case, vacating the convictions due to Brady violations and an untenable honest services jury charge.

(wisenberg)

August 6, 2012 in Judicial Opinions, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Securities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New Trial Ordered for ESI Discovery Violation - Electronic Evidence Must be Usable

Guest Blogger – Rochelle Reback 

In light of the prevalence of ESI discovery in white collar cases it is ironic that an important principle regarding electronic discovery is developed for us in an indigent's drug smuggling case. But, we'll take it! In United States v. Stirling ( Download Altonaga order granting new trial(1)) yesterday, District Judge Altonaga found that notwithstanding the government’s technical compliance with its ESI discovery obligations under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1)(B) by furnishing an exact replica of defendant's hard drive to the defense, the government's electronic discovery dump in this case so seriously impaired the defendant’s trial strategy that there should be a new trial. Not known to defendant's attorney, on the disclosed and mirrored hard drive were some of defendant's Skype chat logs which the government's forensic expert was able to open and view only by using a specialized computer program. The Skype chats were not visible in any other way. But neither the existence of the Skype chats on the hard drive, nor the expert's employment of the specialized program to view them were disclosed to the defense until after defendant testified. In rebuttal the prosecutor called their expert and used these Skype chats to impeach defendant to devastating effect as they contradicted much of his trial testimony. Stirling was convicted.

Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33, Judge Altonaga ordered a new trial in "the interest of justice," even though the government had warned the defense that if Stirling took the stand and testified falsely, there was [unidentified] evidence on the computer which the Government would use in its rebuttal to impeach him. Finding that this was not like the cases cited by the government where courts have consistently refused to require the government to identify exculpatory or inculpatory evidence within a larger mass of disclosed evidence, Judge Altonaga wrote that the standard of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34(b)(2)(E)(ii) should also apply in criminal cases and the government should be required to produce ESI in a "reasonably usable form." She found the government's "technical compliance with its discovery obligations under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16 (a)(1)(B) by the furnishing of an exact replica of the hard drive" to not be enough. The government "never told defense counsel that incriminating Skype chats could be extracted from the disk or that they even existed." Judge Altonaga agreed with defense counsel that "production of something in a manner which is unintelligible is really not production." She ruled that "If, in order to view ESI, an indigent defendant such as Stirling needs to hire a computer forensics expert and obtain a program to retrieve information not apparent by reading what appears in a disk or hard drive, then such a defendant should so be informed by the Government, which knows of the existence of the non-apparent information. In such instance, and without the information or advice to search metadata or apply additional programs to the disk or hard drive, production has not been made in a reasonably usable form. Rather, it has been made in a manner that disguises what is available, and what the Government knows it has in its arsenal of evidence that it intends to use at trial."

One has to wonder if the "interest of justice" result would have been the same if the defendant in this case was not indigent and did not have to seek the court's assistance for experts and more sophisticated computer resources to unlock the hidden mysteries of the electronically stored information.

(reback) –(with hat tips to Donna Elm and Robert Godfrey)

June 6, 2012 in Judicial Opinions, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fifth Circuit Decision Has Many Inviting Issues for the Supremes

The Fifth Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentences in U.S. v. Brooks, a case involving alleged "false reporting of natural gas trades in violation of the Commodities Exchange Act and the federal wire fraud statute." 

Although the court distinguishes the Stein decision from the Second Circuit with the facts in this case, both cases had individual defendants who had their attorney fees cut off.  In Brooks, the defense claimed it was from government pressure, but the Fifth Circuit said the factual findings were not present to confirm this conduct.  The court found that the company's policy on payment of attorney fees was a discretionary policy.  But when a company gets a deferred prosecution agreement one has to wonder if there is an incentive to show cooperation, albeit payment of attorney fees can not be a factor used.

There is also an interesting question of what constitutes "reports" for purposes of the CEA or CFTC regulations.  This is an intriguing issue as one is basically violating federal law through a submission document. The Fifth Circuit rejected a void for vagueness argument here.

The Fifth Circuit also found the Fifth Circuit Pattern Jury Instruction as meeting the recent Supreme Court decision in Global Tech, although they admit it does not use the same language.  The question here is whether deliberately closing one's eyes is the same as taking "deliberate actions to avoid learning of the fact," the test set forth in Global Tech.  I see a difference in that one is passive and the other is active. The Court seems to be satisfied with the evidence in this case, but one has to wonder if the Fifth Circuit should be quickly looking to change its pattern jury instruction to avoid this issue in future cases.

Then there is the question of defense witness immunity.  A witness is on the prosecution witness list and is not called to testify because the prosecution has concerns about the witnesses truthfulness. The witness has not yet been sentenced (the government postponed sentencing for 39 months- obviously to be after this trial) and decides to take the Fifth Amendment. The prosecution called the witness the evening before the witness was to testify, but says the call was to determine if they needed to prepare the witness for cross-examination.  The defense argues that the witness has exculpatory evidence for the defense.  The defense asks for defense witness immunity and doesn't get it. One has to wonder whether the jury really had full information to resolve guilt or innocence? But the Fifth Circuit held otherwise. 

And this is not a case where defendants are receiving light sentences. All the defendants were level one and yet all of their sentences exceeded 11 years imprisonment, with one receiving a 14 year sentence.  Whoever thinks white collar offenders are getting off easy, needs to just look at this case to see that this is not the situation.

(esp) 

June 5, 2012 in Attorney Fees, Defense Counsel, Judicial Opinions, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Corporate Social Responsibility and Supply Chains Practice: Proposed Dodd-Frank Conflict Minerals Rules

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Should Edwards Be Retried?

As noted here, John Edwards was found not guilty on one count, and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining counts. Prosecutors should now move on and not retry Edwards on these remaining counts. 

The government has expended enough taxpayer money on this case and Edwards most likely has had to incur the cost of his defense. Prosecutors have already hurt Edward's reputation with the evidence presented at trial - so there is no punishment basis for proceeding further.  Evidence not presented at trial left the murky question of whether this money was even a political contribution, and the testimony of Federal Election Commissioner Scott E. Thomas that was not heard by the jury raises additional issues on campaign contributions.   But the place to resolve this is not in the criminal courtroom.  More importantly, if skilled folks can differ on this question then one certainly should not hold someone criminally liable.

No one walks out unhurt by this trial.  And that is the huge cost that comes with a prosecution.  It is for this reason that prosecutors need to consider carefully prior to charging anyone with criminal conduct.

(esp)

May 31, 2012 in Judicial Opinions, News, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Verdict | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Corporate Sentencing Statistics With Commentary

Some have been claiming that corporate prosecutions are down in numbers.  It certainly has not seemed that way, so I was glad to see the numbers, which demonstrate that corporate sentencings have been average over the past few years.

Lisa Rich, Director of the Office of Legislative and Policy Affairs at the United States Sentencing Commission provided the following corporate statistics for the recent Federal Sentencing Conference (although I have reworded some of what she provided): In FY 2011, there were 160 organizational cases and 151 pled guilty and 9 were convicted after jury trials. Probation was ordered in 111 cases and 31 had court ordered compliance/ethics programs. Three cases received credit for self-reporting and 44 received credit for cooperating with the government. But of the approximately 74 cases in FY2011 for which the Commission had Chapter 8 culpability information, there were no entities receiving full credit for having an effective compliance program. Not one of the 74 cases received credit under subsection (f).

These statistics do not reach the full corporate efforts by DOJ since they fail to include non-prosecution agreements or deferred prosecution agreements that have not gone through chapter 8.  So some bottom line observations: 1) if the government decides to prosecute a corporation - it has an incredibly high chance of success; 2) more emphasis needs to be put into teaching corporations how to operate an effective compliance program; 3) studies need to examine whether by using deferred and non-prosecution agreements the government is increasing prosecutions against corporate individuals (it certainly seems likely that this would be the case).

(esp)  

May 31, 2012 in Conferences, Deferred Prosecution Agreements, Government Reports, News, Prosecutions, Settlement, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Government Dismisses Lindsey Manufacturing Case Appeal

The DOJ filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss (Download USA v Lindsey, etc., et al.___ecf.ca9.uscourts) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit the FCPA case involving Lindsey Manufacturing Co., its CEO and CFO.  The government had filed an appeal on December 1, 2011 following an Order of District Judge Howard Martz, who ruled that the Lindsey prosecution had been tainted by a pervasive pattern of flagrant government misconduct. Contributing Blogger Solomon Wisenberg posted here excerpts from this initial Order. By today's dismissal, the government is finally dropping this prosecution and it also ends the efforts to get the company to forfeit $24 million.  

Attorney Jan Handzlik of Venable LLP stated, "This is a great day for the fair administration of justice.  We couldn't be happier for Keith, Steve and the 110 loyal, hard-working employees of Lindsey Manufacturing Company.  This dismissal further vindicates Dr. Lindsey's belief in our system of justice and in his innocence.  Keith and Steve were steadfast in their belief that the government had not played fair and that the truth would come out."

Congratulations also go to Janet Levine (CrowellMoring), who also represented an accused in this case.  Both Jan Handzlik and Janet Levine were the inaugural recipients of the White Collar Criminal Defense Award given at the NACDL White Collar Criminal Defense College at Stetson (see here).

(esp)

May 25, 2012 in FCPA, News, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Settlement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Statement of Williams & Connolly on DOJ's "Laughable" Punishment of Ted Stevens's Prosecutors

The Statement of Williams Connolly LLP, through Rob Cary, Brendan Sullivan, and Simon Latcovich, truly speaks for itself. We will have more to come on the DOJ's actions.

(wisenberg)

May 25, 2012 in Contempt, Corruption, Government Reports, Legal Ethics, Obstruction, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0) | 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)