Edwards Verdict Shows Clemens Need Not Fear Taint Of Reputation

June 4, 2012

Bloomberg on June 3, 2012 released the following:

“By David Glovin

Jurors tend to look past a criminal defendant’s reputation, no matter how odious, to render verdicts based on fact and law, lawyers said after former presidential candidate John Edwards won an acquittal and mistrial last week.

Federal jurors in Greensboro, North Carolina, on May 31 acquitted Edwards of one charge of using illegal campaign contributions to hide an extramarital affair and couldn’t decide about five other counts. They did so after hearing evidence that Edwards cheated on his dying wife and lied to the public about fathering a child with his paramour.

The verdict sends an encouraging signal to Roger Clemens, the former Major League Baseball pitcher now on trial in Washington for lying to Congress about his use of steroids, said Douglas Godfrey, a professor who teaches criminal law at Chicago-Kent College of Law.

“While we would all acknowledge that Edwards and Clemens are not nice guys and they behaved in very bad ways, that’s not the same as violating the law,” Godfrey said in a telephone interview. “Just because you’re an arrogant SOB or philanderer, that’s not the same as committing a crime.”

Edwards’s acquittal and mistrial came 11 months after a Florida jury acquitted Casey Anthony, an Orlando mother accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, and 22 years after a New York City jury rendered a not guilty verdict in the racketeering case of Imelda Marcos, the former Philippines first lady ridiculed for owning more than 1,000 pair of shoes. In those cases and others, public opinion had turned so harshly against the defendants that a conviction seemed almost an afterthought.

Then the jury weighed in.

Jury Speaks

“It’s a great affirmation of our jury system that people like Casey Anthony and John Edwards, who are personally unlikable and in many ways despicable, can still sit in front of a jury of 12 people and have those 12 people judge them based on the evidence,” said Marc Mukasey, a former federal prosecutor who is now in private practice at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP.

Edwards, a former Democratic U.S. senator from North Carolina and presidential contender in 2008, was accused of violating campaign finance laws by accepting almost $1 million from multimillionaire heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Fred Baron, a now-deceased trial attorney, to conceal an affair. The case marked the first time the government prosecuted someone for campaign violations when money was paid to a third party.

Jurors deliberated for nine days before reaching their partial verdict. They couldn’t agree on counts that included a claim that Edwards conspired to protect his candidacy by secretly soliciting and accepting the funds and causing his campaign to file false reports with the Federal Election Commission.

He’s unlikely to be retried, a person familiar with the matter said last week.

Adultery, Arrogance

Except for the defendants’ notoriety — Edwards for adultery and Clemens for arrogance — the two cases have few similarities, said Stefan Passantino, who heads the political law team at McKenna Long & Aldridge in Washington. Lying to Congress, which Clemens is accused of, is a far more established crime than the conduct for which Edwards was on trial, he said.

Still, both defendants have had to confront the prospect that jurors would convict because of their reputations. The Edwards jury didn’t, in part because defense lawyers shifted the focus to ex-campaign aide Andrew Young, who acted as a go- between on transactions involving Mellon and Baron and used some of their money to build his own $1.5 million home.

Defense attorney Abbe Lowell also addressed the character issue head-on.

‘Moral Wrongs’

“John Edwards may have committed many moral wrongs but he did not commit a legal one,” Lowell told jurors during his closing argument. “He was a bad husband and lied to his family but there is not a remote chance that he violated campaign finance laws or committed a felony.”

Marcellus McRae, a former federal prosecutor who is now at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Los Angeles, said jurors were attentive enough to the case’s nuances to see past Edwards’s reputation.

“Perceptions about personalities don’t govern verdicts,” he said. “In Edwards, personality didn’t rule.”

While Clemens is a seven-time Cy Young Award winner as the best pitcher in his league, he also ranks 14th in Major League Baseball for hitting 159 batters with pitches during his career.

Hurled Bat

Lawyers for Clemens, whose reputation for abrasiveness grew after he hurled a bat at an opposing player and because of his performance before Congress, have been taking a page from Edwards’s book. The ex-pitcher’s defense has been focused on tearing down the credibility of the government’s only eyewitness, Brian McNamee, Clemens’s former trainer.

McNamee testified he gave Clemens injections of steroids and human-growth hormone.

Clemens’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, got McNamee to admit he’d lied to federal investigators and accused him of alcohol abuse and engaging in a fraudulent scheme to obtain diet pills.

“The facts are very different, the personalities are different,” Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor who’s now a partner with McCarter & English LLP in Newark, New Jersey, said of the Clemens and Edwards cases.

‘Positive Message’

“But if there’s any positive message that Clemens can draw out of the Edwards verdict, it’s that jurors will look beyond whatever antipathy they may feel regarding their personal conduct and do their best to make a decision based solely on the facts and law presented to them at the trial,” Mintz said in a telephone interview.

Jacob Frenkel, a former Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer who is now with Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker PA in Potomac, Maryland, said it’s proven lying, and not reputation, that puts many celebrity defendants behind bars. He pointed to Martha Stewart, who was sentenced to six months in prison in 2004 for obstructing justice by lying to prosecutors, and baseball player Barry Bonds, the career home-run record-holder who was convicted last year of obstructing justice for deceiving a grand jury.

Clemens is accused of obstructing justice and perjury.

“It is the acts of lying or obstruction that often are the downfall,” Frankel said in a telephone interview.

It’s not only Clemens who may take comfort in the Edwards verdict, said Michael Kendall, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery in Boston and a former federal prosecutor. In New York, Rajat Gupta, who was once a director of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and who ran McKinsey & Co. from 1994 to 2003, is defending against charges that he leaked inside information to hedge fund co-founder Raj Rajaratnam.

Public Hostility

If Edwards could win an acquittal, so might Gupta, even amid public hostility to bankers and Wall Street in the wake of the 2007 financial crisis, he said.

“There are a thousand ways to derail a prosecution,” Kendall said in a telephone interview. “There’s an incredible common sense in collective good judgment in the jury system.”

The Edwards case is U.S. v. Edwards, 11-cr-161, U.S. District Court, Middle District of North Carolina (Greensboro). The Clemens case is U.S. v. Clemens, 10-cr-223, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington). The Gupta case is U.S. v. Gupta, 11-cr-907, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense 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 Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

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


Prominent defense lawyer faces US charges

May 29, 2012

The Boston Globe on May 29, 2012 released the following:

“Robert A. George goes on trial today on charges of conspiring to launder money

By Milton J. Valencia

In a recent trial in federal court in Boston, well-known lawyer Robert A. George stood before a jury for his closing arguments, and spoke directly.

“When you’re innocent, you have a right to stand up and say something,’’ he declared in defense of his client, a Dorchester nurse and a mother of five charged with distributing prescription drugs.

But George might well have been speaking for himself – because he, too, is about to stand trial.

The 57-year-old father of three is accused by federal prosecutors of conspiring to help a former client launder drug money, and of restructuring bank deposits in violation of tax laws. Jury selection is slated for Tuesday. The case is a fight for his career and his livelihood.

The arrest of George in March 2011 caused a stir in the legal community, and defense lawyers descended on the Moakley courthouse to show their support.

In the year since FBI agents first swarmed his home, George, known for his testy exchanges with prosecutors, has represented clients just as aggressively as he did years ago when he defended Mafia figures and, later, the trash collector who maintains he was wrongly convicted of murdering Cape Cod fashion writer Christa Worthington.

George has also fought for a new trial for a former Stoughton police chief after finding information about one of the jurors that could have excluded her from serving on the panel in that extortion case. That request is pending in state court.

He has been working on his own case with two of the state’s better known defense lawyers, Robert M. Goldstein and Kevin R. Reddington. With them, he has filed repeated motions.

George has accused prosecutors of retaliating against him, being vindictive because of his defense of a man accused of plotting to kill a federal prosecutor several years ago. He has questioned the propriety of the government’s use of a confidential informant in his case, a man with a lengthy criminal history.

George and his lawyers are even attempting to include US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz on his witness list.

“He has been laser focused on his clients’ cases, as well as his own,’’ said Thomas Shamshak, a former police chief in Spencer and Winthrop and a Somerville lieutenant who founded his own private investigative firm. He has worked with George on several cases, including this one. “He is a ferocious advocate unlike anyone I have ever worked for.’’

Martin Weinberg, a lawyer who has represented high-profile clients in federal court and who won the acquittal of a lawyer in a racketeering case several years ago in Florida, said the case also demonstrates the quintessential challenge for any lawyer: representing another criminal defense lawyer and the symbolism that comes with it.

“There’s always that added context, that you’re representing the lifestyle,’’ said Weinberg. “You’re representing everything he is.’’

Lawyers in Massachusetts can lose their law license if they are convicted of a felony, but nothing prevents them from carrying out their practice until their case has concluded.

Court rules require only that a lawyer notify his or her clients of the pending charges. A lawyer would have to notify the state Office of Bar Counsel if convicted.

George, who has lived on Cape Cod and the suburbs west of Boston, faces up to 20 years in prison on charges of trying to help a former client launder his drug-dealing profits for a fee, by referring him to a mortgage broker who would help him.

The former client, Ronald Dardinski, was cooperating with authorities, and George alleges he was targeted by authorities because he represented a man who in 2007 plotted to kill prosecutor Jack Pirozzolo.

Prosecutors rejected that allegation, and US District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton refused to dismiss the case or to hold an evidentiary hearing, saying there was no evidence of retaliation. Prosecutors say they have audio recordings of George setting up the money-laundering scheme.

Rosemary Scapicchio, a friend of George’s, represented him at his initial hearing, before he could hire Reddington, and she lashed out at prosecutors for “investigating a criminal defense attorney who is out there protecting people’s rights. This is outrageous.’’

It is not the first time a defense lawyer has been a defendant in federal court in Boston. Last January, for instance, Gorton admonished attorney Lawrence M. Perlmutter before sentencing him to 5 1/2 years for laundering drug profits for his clients.

“You have disgraced not only yourself, but the rest of us who hold our profession in the highest esteem, and for what?’’ Gorton hissed. He is the same judge in George’s case.

George and his lawyers would not comment for this article.

One of George’s last appearances in a federal courtroom was May 9, for the sentencing of Gladys Ihenacho, the Dorchester nurse and wife of a pharmacist. Her husband, Baldwin, who had a different lawyer, was sentenced to 63 months in prison.

Gladys was acquitted of 23 of the 30 charges she faced.

Prosecutors had asked that she serve 27 months in prison, saying she showed greed. But George had asked that she serve no prison time because she had a family to care for, and argued that the charges did not reflect her work as a mother.

She was sentenced to probation, with 10 days of home detention, and went home that day.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense 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 Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

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