Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Are The Lindsey Convictions Hanging By A Thread?

On May 10th, after a five week trial in the C.D. of California, a jury returned guilty verdicts against Lindsey Manufacturing and its executives Keith Lindsey and Steven Lee on charges of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and five counts of FCPA violations. See here for the prior post.

On June 27th, Judge Matz held a hearing on defendants' prosecutorial misconduct motion. This post summarizes the hearing and contains excerpts from the hearing transcript. Given what transpired in Judge Matz's courtroom and based on his comments during the hearing, it appears that the DOJ's only jury trial conviction of a corporate entity in FCPA history may be hanging by a thread.

For starters, the June 27th hearing on the post-trial motion to dismiss and vacate the guilty verdict due to prosecutorial misconduct was cut short.


Prior to the hearing the DOJ informed Judge Matz that it had discovered and disclosed to the defendants that morning grand jury testimony by FBI Case Agent Susan Guernsey even though Judge Matz had previously ordered the DOJ to produce Guernsey's grand jury testimony. During the hearing, the DOJ stated that it "was not anything done intentionally" and that it was not anything that "prejudiced the defendants."

Judge Matz said "I'm shocked" but then quickly said "I shouldn't be shocked because it's not the first time that [the DOJ has] come into court trailing all kinds of apologies and benign mea culpas for failures to disclose information, to produce information, to answer questions fully and responsively ...".

Judge Matz then cut short the hearing on the pending motion.

"Without disclosing where [he] was coming out on the pending motions" Judge Matz stated as follows.

"I think this question of whether or not the right of any or both or all three of the remaining defendants to due process was violated, and if so, what remedy has to be perceived -- not perceived but has to be briefed and addressed in a broader context." Judge Matz said that he had already read all of the briefs and that he had reached certain conclusions and he then proceeded to recite "just randomly and anecdotally" things that he found "troubling." He noted that his list was "by no means inclusive" concerning the "at best extraordinarily sloppy investigation and prosecution of this case."

In addition to the "astonishing" and "troubling" disclosure mentioned above, Judge Matz - "speaking off the top of [his] head" - provided a "brief anecdotal list" concerning the "tortured history of this prosecution." He listed the following: (i) "the government searched two buildings without a search warrants;" (ii) the government obtained certain e-mails that were unauthorized; (iii) the "government played games with the inclusion or absence" of an individual on the witness list; (iv) the "inept, evasive, self-serving and incomplete" trial testimony of Guernsey; and (v) "the game playing with the chain of custody testimony."

After this list, Judge Matz stated as follows. "I don't know if there was a stench that developed in this case, but there was a bad odor at times, and so the issue that I'm inviting both sides to address is [...] whether either through a finding of due process violations or in the exercise of my supervisory power, something akin -- and I'm not minimizing the significance of this by using this phrase, but something akin to the whole being greater than the sum of its parts justifies throwing out this conviction, because a lot of the parts that led up to this conviction are extremely troublesome."

Judge Matz then said as follows. "One could look back on the outcome and say there was enough evidence to warrant a conviction. I'm not addressing that question, but the lawyers on both sides, who are smart lawyers, know that that doesn't justify affirming a conviction if there are violations of constitutional rights or if something was such a travesty that it ought not to be permitted and a judge in trying to supervise justice and administer it properly has a right to say enough is enough or this was too much. And I don't have a final view on that, but that's what I wanted to be briefed."

The defendants' brief is due on July 18th, the DOJ's brief August 1st, and the reply brief on August 15th. The hearing is scheduled for September 8th.

Jan Handzlik (Greenberg Traurig - here) counsel for Lindsey Manufacturing and Keith Lindsey commented as follows. "We are deeply troubled by the government's conduct. The trial ended over a month ago and yet we are still uncovering materials that should clearly have been disclosed long before trial. This case continues to be an emotional roller coaster for the clients and the lawyers."

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