Sunday, September 4, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 The Third Circuit instruction on “Intentionally” states that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hardin said: “No problem.”

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

And the motions hearing ended.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Wisenberg)

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

Monday, July 25, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Wisenberg)

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

Thursday, June 16, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(dt)

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

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fraud Rules the Roost in FBI Press Release Count

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

(slw)

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

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roger Clemens Indicted

The Washington Post story is here and has a link to the indictment. Nothing yet up on PACER. Clemens is charged in six counts with perjury, false statements, and obstruction of Congress.

(slw)

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

Thursday, June 24, 2010

NACDL President Comments on Honest Services Trilogy

GUEST BLOGGER-SOLOMON L. WISENBERG

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

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

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

(slw)

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

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Recession Discussion - University of Chicago Legal Forum

The University of Chicago's Legal Forum - 2009 Symposium  on Crime, Criminal Law and the Recession -began with opening remarks from Anton Valukas(Jenner & Block), who many remember as the former United States Attorney from the Northern District of Illinois in the days of Greylord. Now appointed the Examiner in Lehman Brothers Holdings bankruptcy, he was speaking as the opening  keynote on recession and crime. He reminded us of the history of downturns in the economy and how individuals "get caught" when the economy goes soar. He spoke also about the role of lawyers, accountants, and other gatekeepers.

The first panel was Brian Walsh from the Heritage Foundation and myself.  Brian Walsh, in a well received talk, stressed how the tools to fight the criminality have been there and adding more to the federal criminal code is not the answer. My talk looked at accountability (the lack of it at the time), who people are blaming (not necessarily accurately), and what transparency will provide us with in the future.  A concern, which will be a focus of my paper, is with the diminishing media and its potential impact on investigative reporting that brings to light criminality, oftentimes government corruption.

The second day proves to be a promising discussion with Stuart Green (Rutgers-Newark), John Pfaff (Fordham), Carol Streiker (Harvard), and Jordan Streiker (Texas) talking about the economics of punishment. Roger Fairfax (George Washington), Alex Kreit (Thomas Jefferson),  Justin McCrary (Boalt), and Robert Mikos (Vanderbilt) will be speaking about state and local budgets - changes in police and prosecution.  The final panel is Richard McAdams (Chicago) and Jonathan Simon(Boalt) speaking about social inequality and crime.

(esp)(written in Chicago) 

October 24, 2009 in Conferences, Media, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Perp Walks & the Press

New York Law Journal (law.com) has a superb article by Vesselin Mitev titled, Court Refuses to Halt Media's Use of 'Perp Walk' Photo.  Clearly a court cannot and should not interfere with the right of the press to report the news as they see fit. The fact that jurors may be subjected to photos that may taint their opinion of the accused is left to defense counsel to ask about in voir dire and to exclude those individuals that may have been improperly influenced.  And if the government goes too far with their tainting the pool, a change of venue or dismissal may be necessitated.  The problem in this regard is the government and not the press use of the material.

But that said, the government practice of perp walks is appalling and all press should seriously consider whether they want to participate in furthering this government (mis)conduct.  Perp walks are designed to get the media to buy into press of an accused individual being brought into custody via handcuffs.  In white collar matters, the individual would have likely turned themselves in without the need for a handcuffed parade in front of the press and oftentimes fellow workers. The practice is one that is in opposition to our system that affords accused individuals a presumption of innocence until proved guilty by the government.  Although the press cannot, and should not, be prohibited from using these photos, one would hope that they would evaluate their own ethics in buying into this government practice.  And if the government continues to proceed with perp walks, then the courts need to evaluate whether the government has deliberately tainted the jury pool, and the ethics of this practice.

(esp)

June 2, 2009 in Media | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Future of White Collar Crime Press Investigations - Bleak

With the final edition of the Rocky Mountain News (see here), with newspapers across the U.S. closing (see here for an map that tracks the newspaper layoffs), one has to wonder about the future of white collar investigations that originate from the press.  Press investigations and exposure of corruption have lead to prosecutions.  It is frightening to see the dying press, not only because of what this means to having a well informed public, but also from the perspective of having white collar criminality exposed.

(esp)

March 1, 2009 in Media | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 2, 2009

More on Pardons & Commutations

More on Pardons & Commutations -

Charlie Savage NYTimes, has an article titled On Fast Track for Clemency, via the Oval Office and there are wonderful follow-ups from P.S. Ruckman Jr., Pardon Power, ABC News: Pardon Breakdown and The Times: On Pardons and Access .   Some observations -

  • The process has its issues and those who are less fortunate and don't have a connection may not have as good a chance of securing a pardon or commutation.
  • Politics and/or influence may have played a factor and this needs to be scrutinized.
  • The press is monitoring every pardon issued.

It's this last point that interests me.  We see newspapers cutting staffs and suffering from the economy and also the effect of the Internet.  Investigative reporters have served an important role in society and in uncovering many corruption and white collar crimes.  So, too, they serve an important role in keeping the government in check. Will this continue and what happens if we lose the power of the press?

(esp)

Addendum, Mary Flood, Houston Chronicle, Pardon watch on as transition nears -But it's doubtful any Houstonians will make the cut

January 2, 2009 in Corruption, Media, News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

U.S. Attorney Firings -- The Book

Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico, one of the seven (or eight or even nine) federal prosecutors fired by the Department of Justice in 2006, will be publishing a book, "In Justice," that discusses his career and the process by which he and the others were terminated.  In the fashion of other tell-all books that leak certain details to pique our interest, a story in the McClatchey Newspapers (here) reveals that Iglesias spoke with U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton of the Western District of Texas, the head of the U.S. Attorneys committee and a close ally of the President, to see if he could intercede to save Iglesias' job.  According to Iglesias, Sutton said that his name was on a list, and that the firings were "political."  While not exactly earth-shattering, the fact that Sutton was shown the list and acknowledged the political nature of the decision shows how the decision-making process was tainted.  Prior to being fired, Iglesias received a call from New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici questioning the slow progress of a corruption case involving a Democrat official, and complained about the case not moving forward quickly enough before the 2006 election.  Iglesias was fired less than two months later.  There are sure to be further disclosures from the book until its release in a few months.  I can't wait for the movie, and I wonder who will play Alberto Gonzales, Monica Goodling, Carol Lam, Kevin Ryan, and the rest of the crew.  Iglesias was the model for Tom Cruise's role as a Navy lawyer in "A Few Good Men," but he may not be right for the part this time.  Suggestions are welcome. (ph)

March 8, 2008 in Media, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Will a Perjury Trap Be Set for Roger Clemens on Capitol Hill?

There is nothing quite like a high-profile scandal to attract Congressmen like moths to a flame, and the Mitchell Report on steroid and HGH use in baseball is one of the brightest flames around these days.  Two Congressional Committees have scheduled hearings in January on the issue, inviting former Senator George Mitchell and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to testify.  Back in March 2005, in the first round of publicity-mongering on steroids in baseball, the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee invited a number of major leaguers to testify about steroid use.  That hearing produced Mark McGwire's famous non-assertion of the Fifth Amendment when he proclaimed he would only talk about the future -- who cares about what a retired baseball player does after his playing days -- and Rafael Palmeiro aggressively asserting that he never used steroids -- only to test positive a couple months later, thus ending his career.

The prospect of such enticing nuggets showing up on YouTube may well result in one or more invitations to superstar pitcher Roger Clemens to testify about his reported steroid use.  Clemens is the highest profile player, perhaps after Barry Bonds, named in the Mitchell Report, and he issued the following statement denying the assertions in the Report: "I want to state clearly and without qualification: I did not take steroids, human growth hormone or any other banned substances at any time in my baseball career or, in fact, my entire life.  Those substances represent a dangerous and destructive shortcut that no athlete should ever take."  A USA Today story (here) quotes Representative Tom Davis as stating that no players will be subpoenaed, but they are free to appear voluntarily and testify under oath.

The source of the information about Clemens is a former trainer, Brian McNamee, who is reported to have spoken to Mitchell and his investigators pursuant to a proffer agreement with federal prosecutors that limits any subsequent use of his statements against him while requiring him to be truthful.  This type of limited immunity, sometimes called a "Queen for a Day" agreement, usually is a prelude to a plea bargain with the government that will include a recommendation of leniency from prosecutors based on the defendant's cooperation.  There is no report at this point that McNamee has agreed to plead guilty to any charges, and there's a chance prosecutors could decide not to charge him or even grant full immunity.  Either way, the limited protection does not mean he is a credible witness automatically.

Given Clemens' denial and McNamee's statements to Mitchell, could there be much better theater than having them both appear on Capitol Hill, a surefire lead story on the evening news?  While statements to the media are not subject to the perjury or false statement laws, much to the consternation of many journalists, testimony before Congress is under oath.  If you were Clemens' attorney, would you have your client testify, especially if there were others out there aside from McNamee who could provide information against him?  On the other hand, given the clarity of his denial of steroid and HGH use, can counsel advise Clemens not to testify if given the opportunity?  While Clemens declined to speak with Mitchell, now that his name it out in public, there will be enormous pressure on him to go to Capitol Hill.  In his statement he said "I plan to publicly answer all of those questions at the appropriate time in the appropriate way."  Is a Congressional hearing the "appropriate" forum, or was he thinking about perhaps going on Larry King?

Of course, Congress would learn nothing of any importance from having Clemens testify, just like no real legislative purpose was served in 2005 when McGwire, Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and others were dragged in front of the Committee -- but not Barry Bonds, as it turns out.  The invitation is really asking Clemens to step into a perjury traps because Congressional testimony is under oath, and hence subject to a perjury prosecution.  The trap is easily avoided, if Clemens is not subpoenaed to testify, because he can just decline the invitation while castigating the media.  Indeed, he may already have laid the groundwork for such a position when his statement included the following: "I am disappointed that my 25 years in public life have apparently not earned me the benefit of the doubt."  Perhaps he will simply ask for the benefit of the doubt, but at what cost to his credibility if there's an open invitation to reiterate under oath what he has already said to the media. (ph)

December 20, 2007 in Congress, Media, Perjury | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Help for Homeless Vets

The Race to the Bottom blog has an interesting post here on ways to provide help for homeless veterans. (ph)

November 9, 2007 in Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

ABA Webcast on the McNulty Memo

"Corporate Representation after DOJ's McNulty Memo: The Implications of DOJ Policy for White Collar Defenders, Internal Investigators, Civil Litigators and Everyday Business Advisors."

The program will bring together experts to explain the McNulty Memo, its background and meaning for practitioners in white-collar prosecutions, internal investigations, civil litigation, and everyday corporate practice. Our faculty will offer insight into how DOJ is actually implementing the McNulty Memo, its significance for other government agencies, how lawyers are practicing in light of it, and how critics are taking steps to achieve further restraints.


For more details see here.

(esp)

September 2, 2007 in Media | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Washington Legal Foundation Program

Washington Legal Foundation Program -

"Over the past year, criminal defense lawyers, civil liberties advocates, and business associations have been seeking greater protection for white collar defendants’ rights and privileges in the face of increased corporate criminalization. A series of federal court rulings on the constitutional rights of former KPMG executives have helped to fuel the drive for such reform. On Thursday, August 16 from 10:00-11:00 a.m. EST, Washington Legal Foundation will be broadcasting a live Web Seminar examining the ongoing legal drama of U.S. v. Stein and the larger debate over the attorney-client privilege, the ability of companies to pay accused employees’ legal fees, and the McNulty Memo. The discussion features National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Stephanie Martz, and Lawrence Barcella, a leading white collar crime partner from the law firm Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP.

"We encourage you to interact with our speakers by emailing your questions during the program to interactive@wlf.org."

For more information, see here -

Download 8-16-07KPMG.pdf

August 15, 2007 in Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Is the Government Leaking Information to the Press?

The NYTimes has an article titled, "5 Reporters Ordered to Testify About Government Sources."

(esp)

August 13, 2007 in Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

M&A Law Prof Blog

A new blog that is part of the Law Professor Blogs network is the M&A Law Prof Blog written by my colleague, Professor Steven Davidoff.  For those interested in corporate mergers, acquisitions, private equity investments, and the securities markets, it is an interesting read. (ph)

April 26, 2007 in Media | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Coming to a Theater Near You -- The Collapse of Enron

Perhaps it was inevitable that there would be a movie, and there are reports that leading man Leonardo DiCaprio will star in a movie about the demise of Enron.  According to a CNN story (here), the screenplay will be based on Kurt Eichenwald's book "Conspiracy of Fools," and DiCaprio will play a newly-hired employee who exposes the fraud at the company.  I suspect the role of Sherron Watkins will be downplayed, and no doubt hints about a conspiracy involving President Bush and major energy companies will have to enliven what is an otherwise mundane story -- it's awfully hard to make the use of an off-shore special purpose entity to transfers assets to avoid the proper accounting treatment of a loan sound the least bit interesting.  DiCaprio starred in Titanic, so it will be difficult to resist comparisons to that disaster, and I doubt there will be any scenes on the roof of the Enron tower in Houston.  Then again, there are those who claim the government's prosecution of Lay, Skilling, and others was a work of complete fiction anyway, the so-called "criminalization of agency costs" argument, so this story can't be viewed as any more of a fabrication. (ph)

February 14, 2007 in Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Lord Black's "Difficulties"

The Wall Street Jrl here tells of the life Conrad Black is leading despite charges pending against him. Oftentimes those who are alleged to have committed white collar crimes remain hidden during the pendency of the case.  Lord Black, however, has been on the social scene, even serving as a speaker at Toronto's Empire Club. 

The article also speaks of whether Black is trying to reinstate his Canadian citizenship in case he is convicted, thus allowing him to serve any sentence issued in Canada.  Prisoner Transfer Treaties allow a person convicted in one country to serve their sentence in another country. (see here).  "However, a prisoner is not eligible for transfer until the judgment and sentence in his case is final; that is, when no appeals or collateral attacks are pending." (Id.) But perhaps this entire conversation is premature as Conrad Black has only been indicted, and that does not mean the government will be successful in proving a case against him.

(esp)   

October 13, 2006 in Media, News, Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Another New Law Blog

In the burgeoning world of media-sponsored law blogs, the Washington Post has started one called Bench Conference (here) that is written by Andrew Cohen.  Another good source of legal information and commentary in the blogging world.  (ph)

May 10, 2006 in Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)