February 21, 2012
Move Over Ted Stevens, Here Comes Dr. Jordan: DOJ's Next Brady Scandal?
[All of the facts in this post come from the 11th Circuit opinion in United States v. Ignasiak, publicly available on the 11th Circuit's website (here) or from PACER.]
Arthur Jordan used a counterfeit badge and posed as an on-duty U.S. Marshal in order to carry firearms onto commercial airplanes while on personal travel. He did this nine times. According to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, Jordan's "criminal conduct" resulted in "multiple violations" of 18 U.S.C. Sections 912 and 1001 and 49 U.S.C. Section 46505, and "could have been charged as felonies."
But Jordan wasn't even charged with a misdemeanor. He got pretrial diversion from the South Dakota U.S. Attorney's Office, paid $2,000.00, and agreed never to carry firearms on an airplane again, except while on official business.
Jordan is not your everyday citizen. He is none other than Dr. Arthur Jordan, who goes around the country testifying as an expert for the U.S. Government in Health Care Fraud/Controlled Substances Act prosecutions against pain management physicians. He charges $300 per hour and, during his November 2008 testimony in U.S. v. Ignasiak, claimed to have earned around $30,000.00 as a government expert up to that point in time. Dr. Jordan was the key government expert against Robert Ignasiak in the latter's criminal jury trial, testifying for almost three days. (Roy Black was lead defense counsel during the trial.)
But there's much more to the story. Given its reversal, and its finding that the evidence was sufficient, the 11th Circuit declined to address the other issues raised by Ignasiak on appeal--except for one.
You see, none of the Ignasiak defense attorneys knew during the trial about Dr. Jordan's "criminal conduct" or his South Dakota pretrial diversion agreement. Several months after the Ignasiak guilty verdicts, the government filed the Government's In Camera Notice to the Court ("Notice"). The Notice, and an accompanying affidavit, were filed under seal. This post-trial Notice revealed Dr. Jordan's conduct and his South Dakota pretrial diversion deal to Judge Lacey Collier and Robert Ignasiak's defense team for the first time. The government requested that the Notice be kept under seal, in order to protect Dr. Jordan's privacy interests.
In the Notice, the government also argued that its prior failure to disclose the Arthur Jordan impeachment material did not violate Brady/Giglio, because the Ignasiak prosecutor had not personally known about Dr. Jordan's conduct, or the South Dakota pretrial diversion agreement, during the Ignasiak trial.
Judge Collier summarily granted the government's request to seal the Notice, despite defense opposition. The defense filed a New Trial Motion based on the alleged Brady/Giglio violations. Much of that litigation was conducted under seal. A few documents are publicly available, but they are heavily redacted. The defense lost its New Trial Motion as well.
The 11th Circuit did not decide whether the government's failure to discover and disclose Dr. Jordan's conduct, before or during trial, violated Brady/Giglio. But it did order the government's Notice unsealed and, through its opinion, disclosed Dr. Jordan's "criminal conduct" and pretrial diversion deal to the bench and bar. This was an admirable public service.
The 11th Circuit was clearly displeased by DOJ's effort to shield Dr. Jordan. As the Court succinctly put it:
"Perhaps ironically, by arguing that there was no Brady violation in this case because the AUSA prosecuting Ignasiak was unaware of Dr. Jordan’s history, it is actually the government that most persuasively highlights the value in unsealing the Notice. Indeed, should the Notice remain sealed, the significant likelihood is that in the next CSA prosecution in which Dr. Jordan testifies as an expert, both the prosecuting AUSA and the defense counsel will again be unaware of the highly relevant impeachment evidence contained in the Notice. And in that case, as in this one, should the truth ever come to light, the government could again point to its own ignorance and claim immunity from Brady error. Stated this way, we would have expected the government to condemn, rather than condone, such a problematic outcome."
In light of the 11th Circuit's opinion, several questions present themselves.
1. Who Protected Jordan? In other words, why did he get what looks on its face like a very favorable pretrial diversion deal from the South Dakota U.S. Attorney's Office? Who approved the deal and who within DOJ was informed about it? How long did the diversionary period last? Was it unusually short and, if so, why?
2. Who Revealed or Failed to Reveal Jordan's Conduct and Pretrial Diversion Deal? The Ignasiak prosecution team, from the Northern District of Florida, purportedly did not know about Dr. Jordan's "criminal conduct" or his South Dakota pretrial diversion agreement until after trial. Why not? The South Dakota U.S. Attorney's Office is part of the DOJ and the U.S. Attorney network, and Dr. Jordan is fairly well known as a government expert in pain clinic cases. It is difficult to imagine that South Dakota prosecutors were not aware of Dr. Jordan's ongoing role as a government expert. Assuming that they were aware, why didn't this raise any red flags, and who, if anyone, made the decision to quarantine this obvious Brady/Giglio material? If this is a cover-up, how high did it go? Was Jordan's pretrial diversion completed before Ignasiak's trial? Was it still in force when Jordan traveled, as he surely must have, to Pensacola for trial prep? Wouldn't Jordan need permission from pretrial services in order to travel to Pensacola, and wouldn't he have to tell pretrial service the purpose of his trip? Did the South Dakota U.S. Attorney's Office know of the trip and its purpose? If so, why didn't it notify N.D. Florida?
3. Why Did N.D. Florida Try to Seal and Suppress Dr. Jordan's "Criminal Conduct" and Pretrial Diversion Deal? As the 11th Circuit correctly noted, the government's effort to seal its own Notice had the effect of shielding Dr. Jordan's misconduct from other federal prosecutorial offices. Even assuming, as the government argued in Ignasiak, that an AUSA in one federal district has no obligation to obtain Brady/Giglio from a fellow AUSA in another federal district, what possible justification is there for the active effort to suppress Brady/Giglio material that occurred post-trial in Ignasiak?
4. What Subsequent Prosecutions Have Been Sullied by the Ignasiak Brady/Giglio Suppression? Did the Florida AUSAs ask Dr. Jordan about any upcoming trials Jordan may have had on tap with other U.S. Attorney Offices? If so, did the N.D. Florida make an attempt to tell the other offices about Dr. Jordan? It unquestionably had an ethical duty to do so. What has been done since the Ignasiak opinion to look into this issue?
5. Does the DOJ Really Believe that Brady/Giglio Material Known Only to a Federal Prosecutor in South Dakota is not Brady/Giglio Material in any Other Federal District? What duty does DOJ impose upon its federal prosecutors to tell prosecutors in other federal districts about Brady/Giglio problems with testifying agents and expert witnesses? If there is no policy in this area, why not?
6. How Could This Happen? More to the point, how could this happen post-Stevens? The government filed its Notice in Ignasiak six months after DOJ moved to dismiss the Stevens Indictment with prejudice and six months after Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered his own investigation of Brady/Giglio violations. Apparently AG Holder's message fell on some deaf ears. And I guess the N.D. Florida never thought to re-examine its position, after the DOJ issued, to much fanfare, the Ogden Memo in early 2010. Even now, after the 11th Circuit's pointed comments, the government has not voluntarily moved to unseal the Notice, or the motions and responses from the New Trial Motion, in the Ignasiak case. Why not?
It is extremely difficult for me to believe that either AG Eric Holder or Assistant AG Lanny Breuer knew about the Arthur Jordan issue prior to last month's Ignasiak opinion. And therein lies the problem. Even an Attorney General and Criminal Division Chief publicly committed to rooting out Brady/Giglio abuses could not prevent the Arthur Jordan debacle.
What is the real lesson here? That prosecutors can't be trusted to make their own judgments about what is or is not exculpatory and material under Brady/Giglio. Disclosure must be the norm.
DOJ has done everything in its power to prevent meaningful statutory reform of Fed.R.Crim.App.16 and federal criminal discovery procedures. DOJ says that it can be trusted to prevent Brady/Giglio violations from occurring. The Ted Stevens prosecution is Exhibit 1 in the argument against DOJ. Now we have Exhibit 2. His name is Dr. Arthur Jordan.
Government Dismisses FCPA African Sting Case
The government filed a dismissal with prejudice in an FCPA African Sting case stating:
"(1) the outcomes of the first two trials in which, after extensive deliberations, the juries remained hung as to seven defendants and acquitted two defendants, and one defendant was acquitted on the sole charge against him pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 29; (2) the impact of certain evidentiary and other legal rulings in the first two trials and the implications of those rulings for future trials, including with respect to Rule 404(b) and other knowledge and intent evidence the government proposed to introduce; and (3) the substantial governmental resources, as well as judicial,defense, and jury resources, that would be necessary to proceed with another four or more trials, given that the first two trials combined lasted approximately six months. In light of all of the foregoing, the government respectfully submits that continued prosecution of this case is not warranted under the circumstances."
See Motion - Download 954646
February 09, 2012
The Schuelke Report: Public On March 15, 2012
Here is Judge Emmet Sullivan's Memorandum Opinion ordering unredacted release of Hank Schuelke's Report on prosecutorial misconduct in the Ted Stevens prosecution. Any comments or objections to the report by the attorneys involved are due by March 8 and will be published along with the Report.
February 08, 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.
February 8, 2012 in Celebrities, Corruption, Current Affairs, FCPA, Fraud, Government Reports, Grand Jury, Investigations, Media, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Sports, Statutes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
February 05, 2012
Attorney General Holder Speaks Out on the Importance of Counsel for Indigent Defendants
As we get closer to the 50th Anniversary of the Gideondecision, it is wonderful to see Attorney General Eric Holder being a true "minister of justice" in his support for counsel for indigent defendants. (see here) It is wonderful to see his recognition of the problems with indigent defense -
"Across the country, public defender offices and other indigent defense providers are underfunded and understaffed. Too often, when legal representation is available to the poor, it’s rendered less effective by insufficient resources, overwhelming caseloads, and inadequate oversight."
Across the country, public defender offices are handling cases of defendants charged with crimes related to mortgage fraud, Ponzi schemes, and other white collar offenses. AG Holder's recognition of the problems here and efforts to correct this situation are important to assuring a fair criminal justice process.
January 30, 2012
New Financial Unit Raises Questions
Virtually every presidential State of the Union speech, or its gubernatorial equivalent, calls for tougher criminal laws and/or new investigative resources. President Obama's address last week was no exception. The President called for the establishment of a new unit "to crack down on large scale fraud and protect people's investments." As blog editor Ellen S. Podgor wondered, see here, it was unclear how this unit would differ from the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force established in 2009. I too asked whether this purportedly new unit was anything other than a repackaged version.
The announcement of a new prosecutorial unit also was perhaps an unintended implicit admission that existing federal law enforcement agencies had been less than successful in dealing with serious alleged crimes which some believed had caused the financial crisis. Both Attorney General Eric Holder and SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami defended their record, stating that not every mistake is a violation of law. Holder said, "We also have learned that behavior that is reckless or unethical is not necessarily criminal," a statement which (aside from leading me to ask why it had taken him so long to realize it) should be painted on the walls of every prosecutorial office.
The principal apparent structural difference between this unit, entitled the Unit on Mortgage Origination and Security Abuses ("UMOSA"), and the prior one is, besides its more focused jurisdiction, that this is a joint task force of both federal and state officials. One of its co-chairs -- albeit one of five, four being DOJ or SEC officials -- is New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has shown his independence and aggressiveness toward Wall Street by pushing for stronger sanctions against financial institutions for robo-signing and other improprieties committed after the crisis arose.
Generally, joint federal-state task forces are a one-way street. The feds take the best criminal cases and leave the dregs to the state. One purported justification for such selection is that federal laws and rules of evidence make it easier for federal prosecutors to bring cases and win convictions. Schneiderman has indicated somewhat to the contrary -- that New York and other state laws give state attorneys general greater means to bring both civil and criminal prosecutions.
The idea of combining federal and state resources is generally a good one. Too often law enforcement agencies refuse to share information with other agencies, if at all, until they have determined the information was insufficient for them to act on, often too late for use by the other agencies. On the other hand, I fear that some task force constituents might attempt to make an end run around constitutional and statutory laws and rules, specificially Fed.R.Crim.Pro. 6(e), which, generally, as relevant here, prohibits disclosure of grand jury information to non-federal officials. Of particular concern is whether information secured by federal grand juries, much of which is through immunized testimony, will be provided for use by the states. Both Attorneys General Holder and Schneiderman seem aware of this restriction, but both appear to view it as an obstacle to overcome rather than a right to ensure. How scrupulous they will be in upholding the rule and spirit of grand jury secrecy will be seen.
January 29, 2012
Amicus Brief Filed in Brown Case - Discovery Issue
Previously discussed here, was the cert petition filled in James A. Brown v. United States (11-783),a case that raises interesting questions regarding Brady. As noted, Brown, is a former Merrill Lynch executive who "was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for his testimony before the Enron grand jury about a transaction between Merrill and Enron in late 1999." An amicus brief has been filed in this case that includes several different defense groups and several leading law professors. They weigh in on the important question raised in this brief - the appropriate standard of review for Brady cases. Should it be "clear error" or should it be de novo.
The case also examines "materiality," a term that has creates some confusion. What must a prosecutor provide to the defense counsel. And isn't it odd that the adversary in the process is making the determination for what the defense is entitled to receive. The case looks at summaries being provided to defense counsel. Bottom line - summaries are not the same as the real thing.
January 24, 2012
Financial Crimes Unit
President Obama's State of the Union Address spoke to many important issues. One was financial crime. He said "[w]e will also establish a Financial Crimes Unit of highly trained investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and protect people's investments." (see full text Wash Po here). He later states, "[s]o pass legislation that makes the penalties for fraud count."
Some may recall that back in 2009 President Obama created the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force that had as its purpose "to hold accountable those who helped bring about the last financial crisis as well as those who would attempt to take advantage of the efforts at economic recovery." (see here) I am a bit uncertain how this existing body will or will not interact with the new Financial Crimes Unit, but the concept of further enforcement in this area sounds impressive. Perhaps more funding will be supplied to the SEC through this initiative so that they can properly regulate improprieties and avoid Ponzi schemes of the past. Perhaps more FBI investigators will be hired to work on building these cases. I applaud the President for this one - especially if he goes in this direction.
On the other hand, we really do not need new legislation to make "the penalties of fraud count." The legislation is there, and if one looks at the website of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, there have been a significant amount of prosecutions with existing statutes. (see here). The statutes are there -it is the money that is needed to make these difficult and often complex cases. Please don't add more to the already approximately 4,500 federal statutes out there.
So more regulatory oversight, more prosecutors and SEC folks working on financial matters will help. But the legislation and penalties are already there. I look forward to seeing this Financial Crime Unit up and running and cracking down on improprieties in our financial world.
January 19, 2012
Indicting Criminal Defense Counsel for Trial Misconduct
Mike Scarcella over at the BLT Blog has an interesting piece titled, D.C. Attorney, Charged In Scheme, Fights Prosecutors Over Evidence. But what sounds unusual here is that the attorney is charged based upon testimony from a client that he represented, who is now cooperating with the government and the charges stem from alleged misconduct during the trial.
Even if these allegations of trial misconduct prove to be true, one has to wonder why this wasn't handled via cross-examination or through objections to the admission of the evidence at trial. Is this a professional responsibility problem, a contempt problem, or should this be considered criminal? And did counsel do anything wrong?
When defense counsel is charged with a crime for trial misconduct, it needs to be scrutinized carefully as the process can have a chilling effect on the right to counsel. And it certainly needs to be looked at very closely when the case is premised on a former client's cooperation. So isn't this just the kind of case that all discovery should be turned over to the defense so that justice can occur?
January 15, 2012
More Discovery Issues - Petition for Cert Filed in Brown Case Looks at Brady
The cert petition in James A. Brown v. United States (11-783) raises interesting questions regarding Brady. Brown, a former Merrill Lynch executive "was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for his testimony before the Enron grand jury about a transaction between Merrill and Enron in late 1999." This case was part of the "Enron barge transaction" investigation. The cert petition states that "prosecutors steadfastly denied that they possessed any Brady evidence and claimed that their production of nineteen pages of court-ordered 'summaries' exceeded their constitutional obligations." The Fifth Circuit later found the "evidence was exculpatory and 'plainly suppressed,' but 'not material.'" This was despite the fact that items had been "yellow-highlighted" by prosecutors as "selected exculpatory statements in the evidence they submitted for the district judge's pretrial in camera review." Years after the trial "new prosecutors disclosed thousands of pages of actual notes, 302s, and testimony." This cases raises the issue of what is the correct standard of review under Brady and Kyles.
The petition asks the Court to "establish three clear rules to enforce the crucial constitutional protections established in Brady v. Maryland." It states:
"First, consistent with the majority of Circuits, this Court should establish that Brady decisions must be reviewed de novo. Second, this Court should reject the Fifth Circuit's novel and dangerous approach to determining materiality, and thereby refine and reinforce the Kyles test. Third, this Court should adopt and mandate the majority rule that exculpatory evidence is material per se if the government corrupts the adversary process by providing deficient summaries or affirmatively capitalizing on its suppression at trial."
Discovery issues need to be examined by the Court. This is a good case for the Court to stress the importance of defendants receiving timely discovery to allow for a fair and proper defense to the charges.
Petition for Cert - Download 2011 CERT PETITION FILED
December 01, 2011
FCPA Bombshell: The Lindsey-Lee Order
"In this Court’s experience, almost all of the prosecutors in the Office of the United States Attorney for this district consistently display admirable professionalism, integrity and fairness.
"In this Court’s experience, almost all of the prosecutors in the Office of the United States Attorney for this district consistently display admirable professionalism, integrity and fairness.So it is with deep regret that this Court is compelled to find that the Government team allowed a key FBI agent to testify untruthfully before the grand jury, inserted material falsehoods into affidavits submitted to magistrate judges in support of applications for search warrants and seizure warrants, improperly reviewed e-mail communications between one Defendant and her lawyer, recklessly failed to comply with its discovery obligations, posed questions to certain witnesses in violation of the Court’s rulings, engaged in questionable behavior during closing argument and even made misrepresentations to the Court."
"Consequently, the Court throws out the convictions of Defendants Lindsey Manufacturing Company, Keith E. Lindsey and Steve K. Lee and dismisses the First Superseding Indictment."
November 30, 2011
Brady Again: Some Thoughts
Judge Emmet Sullivan's Order in relation to the Stevens case summarizing some of the findings of the special report by Hank Schuelke and William Shields was reported last week by my editor Ellen Podgor here and discussed in depth by my co-editor Solomon Wisenberg here. I add some thoughts on Brady violations in general.
First, as Mr. Wisenberg points out, few Brady violations are intentional. Although there are some rogue prosecutors who deliberately conceal what they know is information which would be beneficial to the defendant, the vast majority of Brady violators are well-meaning prosecutors who in their focus on their proof do not realize that certain information would be helpful to the defense.
Second, Brady is counterintuitive. Requiring a participant in any contest to provide information to his adversary which will decrease his chance of winning goes against the grain. Expecting a prosecutor who believes that such information is merely a means of enabling a guilty person to get off (since the material in question presumably has not changed the prosecutor's mind that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt) to provide it to his opponent is even more problematical.
Third, Brady violations are not uncommon, although few are revealed. Since Brady violations are done in secret and the concealed evidence is unlikely ever to reach the light of day, most are undetectable. As Judge Sullivan's Order notes, many of the Brady violations in the Stevens case would never have been revealed but for the exhaustive investigation by the court's appointed investigators. And, this case, it should be remembered, involved a U.S. Senator represented by Brendan Sullivan, a superb, highly-respected and aggressive lawyer, and an outstanding law firm with considerable resources, not an overwhelmed court-appointed attorney with limited time and resources.
Fourth, as Mr. Wisenberg notes, prosecutors are rarely punished for Brady violations. Most judges either ignore the violations or gently chide the prosecutors. DOJ internal reviews of alleged prosecutorial misconduct are viewed by defense lawyers and many judges as whitewashes. Disciplinary committees historically have treated errant prosecutors gently in the few cases of prosecutorial misconduct of which they become aware, and prosecutions of prosecutors for obstruction of justice and the like for withholding evidence are virtually nonexistent.
Fifth, the legal standards for Brady disclosure are confused. Most prosecutors and judges think of Brady material as "exculpatory" material, that is, something that might have a significant impact on the determination of guilt, a standard that, to most prosecutors, eliminates all but a very few items of evidence. In fact, what should be disclosed is evidence "favorable" to the accused, a much broader category than "exculpatory." Additionally, many prosecutors believe that the standard used by reviewing courts to determine whether non-disclosure of Brady evidence requires reversal -- whether it is "material" -- is the proper standard to be used by a trial prosecutor in the initial disclose-or-not determination. "Materiality" in this context is essentially a "harmless error" standard of review used to decide whether the withheld evidence mandates reversal, not the standard to determine whether to disclose in the first instance. Just as a prosecutor's argument in summation may be improper, even if unlikely to result in reversal, concealment from the defense of favorable evidence is improper, even if not so serious that it later will be found "material" by an appellate court.
In sum, under current conditions, Brady just doesn't work. More explicit guidelines, as recently published by DOJ, will help, as would standing court orders making a violation contemptuous (as has seemingly not happened in Stevens) and stronger punishments for violations by judges, prosecutorial agencies, and disciplinary committees (and perhaps also a statute criminalizing deliberate and knowing Brady violations). But, in the end, the only real solution to Brady violations may just be, as Mr. Wisenberg suggests, open discovery in criminal cases.
Judge Matz Will Throw Out Lindsey-Lee FCPA Convictions Due To Government Misconduct
Maybe FCPA isn't such a slam dunk after all if you take the government to trial. Bloomberg's Businessweek has the story here. The announcement was made in open court yesterday. A written opinion is due today. The Court is apparently relying on its supervisory power, so we can expect a vigorous government appeal. The ruling covers Defendants Lindsey Manufacturing, Keith Lindsey, and Steve Lee.
November 29, 2011
In anticipation of the Stevens Report, check out Amanda Coyle, Alaska Dispatch, Could botched Ted Stevens prosecution prompt federal legal system reform?
November 25, 2011
Lindsey Hearing And Probable Ruling This Tuesday
"I don't know if there was a stench that developed in this case, but there was a bad odor at times, and so the issue that I'm inviting both sides to address is...whether either through a finding of due process violations or in the exercise of my supervisory power...something akin to the whole being greater than the sum of its parts justifies throwing out this conviction, because a lot of the parts that led up to this conviction are extremely troublesome." U.S. District Court Judge Howard Matz during 6-27-11 post-trial hearing.
The briefs are in and the hearing is set for this Tuesday at 10:00AM in the Lindsey Manufacturing FCPA prosecution. At issue is the Lindsey-Lee Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Indictment With Prejudice Due to Repeated and Intentional Government Misconduct. A potential bad sign for the Government, as if it needed another one, is the Court's November 16th Order requiring the U.S. Attorney's Office to file certain Government and Court exhibits in the record by November 18. The Court had already publicly criticized the Government for its use and handling of some or all of these exhibits. The Government filed the exhibits in question on November 17, and they are now available through PACER.
Judge Matz has previously characterized the Government's investigation and prosecution of the case as "extraordinarily sloppy at best." He was apparently so troubled by the Government's actions that he generated and kept a post note during trial in order to keep track of them.
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.
November 23, 2011 in Contempt, Corruption, Current Affairs, Government Reports, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, Legal Ethics, Media, Obstruction, Perjury, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack
November 21, 2011
Brady is "Hot" - Order in Stevens
The DOJ previously admitted to its failure to produce exculpatory information and "moved to set aside the verdict and dismiss the indictment of Senator Stevens with prejudice." (see here) Judge Emmet G. Sullivan now issued an order that notes
"(1) the significance of the government's decision to dismiss the indictment and not to seek a retrial; (2) the government's admission that it committed Brady violations and made misrepresentations to the Court during the prosecution of Senator Stevens; (3) the prosecutorial misconduct that permeated the proceedings before this Court to a degree and extent that this Court had not seen in twenty-five years on the bench; and (4) the likelihood based on events during and after the trial, including the information revealed by the Department of Justice in support of its motion to vacate the verdict and dismiss the indictment, that the prosecution team may have committed additional constitutional and procedural violations during the Stevens prosecution that had yet to be discovered or addressed, the Court appointed Henry F. Schuelke, III to investigate and prosecute such criminal contempt proceedings as may be appropriate against the six Department of Justice attorneys responsible for the prosecution of Senator Stevens...."
The court noted how Mr. Schuelke had submitted in camera a 500-page "report detailing the findings of his investigation." The court is allowing DOJ and attorneys for Senator Stevens "the opportunity to review the report." These individuals will be allowed to make objections as to why this report should not be released. The sealed materials cover matters related to the cases of Boehm, Kott, Kohring, and Stevens. The court concludes it's order stating, "[W]hile the Court will give appropriate consideration to any legal argument to withhold Mr. Schuelke's Report from the public, the Court notes that the 'presumption of openness may be overcome only by an overriding interest based on findings that closure is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest." (citation omitted).
November 16, 2011
Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, in a recent speech to the American Lawyer/National Law Journal Summit spoke about what he considers disparities in sentencing. He stated:
"One area – though by no means the only one – in which we have seen significant disparities in sentencing in the last several years is financial fraud. With increasing frequency, federal judges have been sentencing fraud offenders – especially offenders involved in high-loss fraud cases – inconsistently. For example, a defendant in one district may be sentenced to one or two years in prison for causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, while a defendant in another district is sentenced to ten or 20 years in prison for causing much smaller losses."
Of course there are differences. Sentences should not be based solely on the crime or amount of loss involved.And yes, there are disaparities - there are disparities in the charging practices of prosecutors. Lest us forget - we sentence people, not numbers, and people are different.
See also Mike Scarcella, BLT Blog, DOJ's Lanny Breuer Addresses Sentencing Disparities
November 08, 2011
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly held a press conference yesterday concerning the sexual assault, perjury, and failure to report charges levied against current and former Penn State officials, including one-time Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky. CBSNews.com has the story here.
Attorney General Kelly stood at a podium. In back of her were giant posters, which showed enlarged photographs of the defendants and summarized the allegations against them.
Kelly had at least this much to say about an alleged 2002 sexual assault by Sandusky on a 10 year-old boy in a Penn State shower: "Those officials and administrators to whom it was reported did not report that incident to law enforcement or to any child protective agency. And their inaction likely allowed a child predator to continue to victimize children for many, many years." Of course, "those officials and administrators" include the two defendants facing charges of perjury and failure to report.
State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan, formerly chief investigator for the AG's Office, added his two cents. According to Noonan, defendant Jerry Sandusky's actions constituted "grooming, where these predators identify a child, [and] become mentors. They're usually children that they're having a little difficulty, they're at-risk children. Through the program he was able to identify these children, give them gifts, establish a trust, initiate physical contact which eventually leads to sexual contact, and that is very common in these types of investigations."
Noonan emphasized that Sandusky made admissions during a 1998 Penn State police investigation, "and nothing happened, and nothing stopped."
Noonan stated that subsequent incidents were ignored and/or not reported to the police. "And that's very unusual. I don't think I've ever been associated with a case where that type of eyewitness identification of sex acts [was] taking place where the police weren't called."
According to Rule 3.8 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct, the prosecutor in a criminal case "shall, except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor's action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused and exercise reasonable care to prevent investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees or other persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor in a criminal case from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under Rule 3.6 or this Rule."
Rule 3.6(a) prohibits a "lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter" from making "an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter."
Note 5 to the Comment on Rule 3.6 cautions that "certain subjects...are more likely than not to have a material prejudicial effect on a proceeding, particularly when they refer to...a criminal matter, or any other proceeding that could result in incarceration." Those subjects relate to, among other things, "the existence of a confession, admission, or statement given by a defendant or suspect."
Why do so many prominent state and federal prosecutors appear to believe that they are immune from the obligation to follow such ethical rules?
November 02, 2011
DOJ Office Admits Error
The Department of Justice last week issued an exoneration. The falsely accused, however, was not a criminal defendant, but the DOJ itself. Specifically, the DOJ Office of the Inspector General publicly disavowed its criticism, discussed briefly here, that at a hotel conference the Department spent $16 for each breakfast muffin. Rather, the IG now admitted, the $16 cost included fruit, coffee, juice, taxes and gratuities, and (as suggested in the earlier blog) was part of a package deal with the hotel which included "free" use of meeting rooms.
The DOJ Office of the Inspector General should play an important role in reviewing the conduct of federal prosecutors, not the cost of refreshments. It would be a more useful use of its resources to investigate accusations of prosecutorial misconduct, such as those made by Kevin Ring and discussed here last week. The DOJ's own internal reviews are viewed by most defense lawyers and some judges as overly protective. Of course, such reviews should be done less carelessly than the IG report on the "muffin scandal."