Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reyes Conviction Overturned By Ninth Circuit

Former CEO of Brocade Communications Systems, Gregory Reyes, had his convictions overturned by the the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The court reversed Reyes' conviction "because of prosecutorial misconduct in making a false assertion of material fact to the jury in closing argument."  Reyes had argued that he "signed off on the backdated options without intent to deceive."  He also argued that "he relied in good faith on the accuracy of the Finance Department's documentation when he signed off on false financial statements."  In reversing, the court states that "[t]he prosecutor asserted as fact a proposition that he knew was contradicted by evidence not presented to the jury." The court does not, however, conclude that "the prosecutor's conduct was so egregious as to require dismissal of the prosecution" and remands the case for a new trial. 

The court does not give this same relief to the former vice-president of the Human Resources Department of Brocade Communications Systems Inc. The court affirmed her conviction, but vacated the sentence and remanded the case for resentencing without an enhancement for alleged obstruction of justice.

Materiality was a key issue that Reyes raised and he had requested a directed verdict upon this issue.  There is a certain irony here in the court finding that the prosecutor's comments were not harmless error and that "the prosecution argued to the jury material facts that the prosecution knew were false, or at the least had strong reason to doubt."

Opinion - here

See also Mercury News.com here, NYTimes here, WSJ Blog here.

(esp) (w/ a hat tip to Tiffany Joslyn)


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