Prosecutors also have stake in Edwards’ trial verdict

May 22, 2012

Myrtle Beach Online on May 21, 2012 released the following:

“By Anne Blythe

GREENSBORO — John Edwards might be the one with the most to win or lose with the jury deliberating his fate, but the U.S. Department of Justice has a lot riding on his case, too.

When the eight men and four women return to the federal courthouse in downtown Greensboro Tuesday morning, they will begin their third day of deliberations in a case that also has put the Justice Department’s small public-integrity section under scrutiny.

Edwards’ trial came almost four years after the unit’s federal prosecutors bungled a corruption case against Ted Stevens, the U.S. senator from Alaska accused of failing to properly report more than $250,000 in gifts.

Stevens was convicted, , but the verdict was appealed and later vacated after it was revealed prosecutors and FBI agents had conspired to conceal and withhold evidence from the defense.

An investigation was launched into the integrity and professional practices of prosecutors in the public-integrity division. A scathing report from that investigation was released earlier this year, showing that prosecutors had “repeatedly ignored the law” and the ethical standards of their profession.

The Public Integrity Section was set up to root out corruption through the prosecution of elected and appointed public officials at all levels of government.

The section has exclusive jurisdiction over allegations of criminal misconduct on the part of federal judges and also supervises the nationwide investigation and prosecution of election crimes.

New chief for federal unit

Since the Stevens case, the unit has a new chief, former New York-based federal prosecutor Jack Smith. The Justice Department also has ordered training to make sure prosecutors disclose key evidence to defense attorneys.

Attorneys who have attended Edwards’ trial have commented throughout that the prosecution as well as the defense has a lot at stake in the case.

Edwards, a former two-time Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. senator who branched into politics after achieving success as a trial lawyer, was indicted last June on six counts related to violations of campaign-finance laws. The violations allegedly occured during Edwards’ campaign for the 2008 nomination, when two wealthy Edwards’ supporters gave more then $900,000 used to help hide Edwards’ extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter and her pregnancy.

Each of the six counts Edwards faces carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, Kieran Shanahan, a former federal prosecutor from Raleigh who sat through the trial, said Edwards – if convicted and unable to successfully appeal – would likely recieve a concurrent sentence and serve no more than five years.

Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and co-author of “The Prosecution and Defense of Public Corruption,” said Monday that a not-guilty verdict would be “a black eye” for the justice department.

“It would call into question their decision even to pursue the case,” Henning added.

But he added that he had seen no surprises from the prosecution, and that ultimately the questions that arise from the trial might be those raised by rulings made outside the jury’s presence by Judge Catherine Eagles, who was appointed to the federal bench in 2010 by President Barack Obama.

Eagles prohibited a former Federal Election Commission chairman from offering his opinion to the jury on whether the money from billionaires Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Fred Baron would typically be classified as a campaign contribution or gift. Scott Thomas, who had more than 30 years with the FEC, testified while the jury was out of the courtroom that he thought the money that went from Mellon and Baron to other people was used for personal expenses that did not need to be publicly reported or subject to campaign limits.

The jury, during its first two days of deliberations, has asked for many exhibits related to testimony about the $925,000 in checks issued by Mellon in 2007 and 2008.

Though only the 12 people on the jury know what is being discussed behind closed doors, the first two counts on the jury verdict sheet are related to the Mellon money.

Toward the end of the trial, the jurors sounded as if they were a collegial group, laughing and talking as they walked into and out of the jury box.

On Monday, the second day of deliberations, the jurors were quieter and somber-looking, barely looking at prosecutors or Edwards as they waited for the judge to answer questions or release them for lunch or the evening break.

As many await the verdict inside the federal courthouse in downtown Greensboro, national political organizations are seeking answers and raising questions outside the tense atmosphere.

Objections to judge’s instructions

On Monday, the Center for Competitive Politics, a conservative group that promotes the deregulation of U.S. elections, harshly criticized the final juror instructions issued last week in the trial, particularly sections about the definition of “influencing an election.”

“If Edwards goes to prison, we will have an Alice in Wonderland world where conduct that would not be punished by a civil fine can result in jail time,” Allison Hayward, vice president for policy of CCP, said in a prepared statement.

The organization’s spokeswoman pointed to a U.S. Supreme Court case decided in 1976, the landmark Buckley v. Valeo case, which states that under “due process” a person of ordinary intelligence must understand that his actions could be considered illegal.

“There is no legislative history to guide us in determining the scope of the critical phrase ‘for the purpose of … influencing,’ ” Hayward further stated.

“The Supreme Court said the phrase ‘for the purpose of influencing’ is so vague and broad that it cannot be constitutionally applied to define campaign spending.””


Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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Federal Jury Acquits All Six in a High-Profile Alabama Federal Corruption Case

March 8, 2012 on March 7, 2012 released the following:

“Jury acquits all 6 in Ala. casino corruption case

The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A jury acquitted a casino owner, three current or former state lawmakers and two other defendants on all counts Wednesday in a high-profile federal case that alleged the legislators were being bribed to legalize gambling in the state.

The jury returned its verdict after seven days of deliberations. One-by-one, each defendant stepped up to a podium in front of the judge to hear the verdicts. They nodded in agreement with the jury’s decision, squeezed their attorneys’ hand or bounced nervously as the clerk said not guilty. Family members in the gallery sobbed in relief, and when court recessed, there were hugs all around.

“We feel like this case was built on innuendos, lies and half-truths,” said Tom Coker, a casino lobbyist who was among those acquitted.

The federal investigation of vote buying began with three Republican legislators telling the FBI they were offered campaign contributions if they would support legislation designed to let electronic bingo games operate in Alabama.

Federal prosecutors said behind the scenes, two casino operators and their lobbyists were offering millions in campaign contributions, benefit concerts by country music entertainers, free polling and other incentives for votes.

The trial was the second for the defendants. The first ended in August with no convictions, two defendants acquitted, and the jury unable to resolve all charges against the remaining defendants.

“This is truly a day to celebrate, and ladies and gentlemen, the celebration starts now,” said VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor.

State Sen. Harri Anne Smith said she would walk into the Senate on Thursday and get to vote again.

“I got my life back today and I want to thank God for that jury,” Smith said.

Also acquitted were former Sens. Larry Means and Jim Preuitt, and Country Crossing casino spokesman Jay Walker.

McGregor, the casino owner, was accused of offering large campaign contributions to legislators for their votes for gambling legislation. Smith and the former senators were accused of agreeing to accept bribes in return for their votes.

The jury found McGregor and the others innocent on charges that included conspiracy and bribery.

The case was the latest in a series of government corruption investigations in Alabama, including the conviction of former Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy on bribery charges in 2006 and a probe of Alabama’s two-year college system that brought down three legislators and the system’s former chancellor in 2008.

The three Republican legislators who cooperated with the FBI recorded calls and meetings and the FBI tapped phones during a yearlong probe that coincided with Republican Gov. Bob Riley creating a task force to shut down electronic bingo. Riley said the machines, featuring flashing lights and sound effects, were illegal slot machines and not simply an electronic version of paper bingo.

Riley’s task force seized machines and won court battles while casino operators failed in 2009 and in 2010 to pass protective legislation.

Ronnie Gilley, the developer of Country Crossing casino, and two of his lobbyists, Jennifer Pouncy and Jarrod Massey, pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Former state Rep. Terry Spicer of Elba also pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Massey and Gilley. All four helped the prosecution and are scheduled for sentencing in April.

Prosecutors said Gilley provided Smith with $200,000 in campaign money, plus a fundraising concert by John Anderson and Lorrie Morgan. They accused Gilley and McGregor of promising Means $100,000 for his vote. They accused Gilley, McGregor and Walker of promising Preuitt $2 million in contributions, a fundraising concert by country music starts and other campaign support.

Defense attorneys argued the case was based on lies told by the guilty in hopes of getting lighter punishment.

All three indicted senators voted for the gambling legislation when it passed the Senate on March 30, 2010. The FBI announced its investigation two days later, and the bill died in the House without coming to a vote.

McGregor’s casino, 15 miles east of Montgomery, was once the state’s largest with 6,000 machines, but it has been closed since the crackdown in 2010. Other casinos, including one in Dothan operated by Gilley’s former partners, are operating.

One thing that was never in dispute in the trial was the profitability of electronic bingo. McGregor’s attorneys acknowledged his casino in Shorter made $40 million in 2009 when it was operating all year and lost $4 million in 2010 when it was closed most of the year.”


To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at or at one of the offices listed above.