Thursday, February 18, 2010

Africa Sting - Update

Yesterday was a busy day in Judge Leon's packed courtroom in Washington D.C.

For a colorful description of what transpired see here for Christopher Matthew's piece at Main Justice. See here for a Reuters piece.

Here are the highlights.

Judge Leon remains skeptical of the government's assertion that all 22 defendants were in one grand conspiracy. According to the reports, Judge Leon read all of the indictments and has "zero sense that there was an omnibus grand conspiracy." Judge Leon reportedly told the DOJ that "what you think is so transparent is not" and he urged the DOJ to "take a step back" given that the DOJ may be so "close to trees that it can't see the forest."

Defense lawyers are troubled by the lack of evidence turned over by the government concerning Richard Bistrong (Individual 1 in the indictments)(see here). One defense lawyer is quoted as saying, "this is an entrapment case [...] we need to know more about Bistrong."

Future dates to keep in mind are: March 10 (when the government must turn over all of its evidence concerning Bistrong) and March 22 (when the government must decide whether to consolidate the cases into one conspiracy). On that issue, Judge Leon again unexpressed an unwillingness to conduct a 22 defendant trial and the DOJ is reportedly in "disposition" talks with some of the defendants.

As previously noted, whether guilty or innocent, there is tremendous pressure on individual criminal defendants in multi-party cases to plead and cooperate in the government's prosecution of others given the "juicy carrots" that are offered by the sentencing guidelines for such "flipping."

1 comment:

  1. It seems like the defendents will be able to negotiate a deal with a significant amount of leverage in light of the Court's comments.