Uh, Oh....Alleged Jury Tampering Involves Two Paralegals

Uh,Oh Column........J0414039 

A trial appearing to be high-profile only in Long Island has suddenly taken an interesting twist.  Two paralegals along with the defendant's brother, have been subpoenaed and fingerprinted for allegedly tampering with the jury in a case involving David Brooks, a military arms contractor, according to several sources including the New York Times.

Brooks, who has been in trial for six months, is charged with sweeping accusations of fraud, insider trading, and company-financed personal extravagance. The jury has been in deliberation now for the past two weeks.

During the trial, Dawn Schlegel, the former chief financial officer of DHB Industries, a company led by Brooks until 2006, DHB Industries testified that DHB, which specialized in making body armor used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, paid for more than $6 million in personal expenses on behalf of Mr. Brooks, covering items as expensive as luxury cars and as prosaic as party invitations.  Ms. Schlegel was originally named as a defendant but pleaded guilty and agreed to testify in exchange for sentencing considerations.

Included in the alleged expense-account abuse were university textbooks for Brooks' daughter, plastic surgery for his wife, a burial plot for his mother, prostitutes for his employees, and, for him, a $100,000 American-flag belt buckle encrusted with rubies, sapphires and diamonds.

The alleged abuse, the prosecution has said, represented a pittance compared with the $190 million that Mr. Brooks and another top employee are accused of making through a stock fraud scheme in which he falsified information about his company’s performance — including significantly overstating the inventory of bulletproof vests — to inflate the price of the stock before selling his shares in 2004.

The case took an interesting turn this week when three members of David Brooks’ defense team including his brother, Jeffrey and two paralegals, (one of whom is the defendant's girlfriend), were subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury to testify and provide fingerprints and handwriting samples according to a report in Newsday today.

Apparently, papers had been given to Brooks by one of his paralegals and hidden among those papers was a note written in a cryptic shorthand that could be interpreted in a number of ways.

The judge, Joanna Seybert, did not disclose the contents of the note after reading it but the story notes that it could be read a variety of ways including inside information regarding the jurors’ deliberations, Brooks’ involvement in the Standardbred business or another matter, according to several sources who read the note.

The ‘note flap’ led to FBI agents confiscating the contents of a garbage can Brooks used and they issued a subpoena to his paralegal.

Brooks’ lead attorney, Kenneth Ravenell, tried to assure the judge that the note involved proper legal matters but when he acknowledged that he did not know who wrote it, Seybert questioned how it could be sure it was legal.

She asked Ravenell to find out by today who had written the note. Brooks maintains the note has some relevance to his vast Standardbred holdings which have been taken over by Jeffrey during his incarceration and trial which has lasted more than six months.

According to Newsday, the grand jury investigation into the note began when the judge overseeing Brooks’ $190 million fraud trial said it might have been a sign of jury tampering or something more innocuous.

Brooks’ attorney first said the note was regarding a legal matter but Brooks later said it was something to do with horse racing.

Investigators have also removed legal documents and other materials from Brooks’ cell. Meanwhile, the jurors requested that the judge give them a ‘pep talk’ saying it was required to “keep everyone focused and open-minded.”

Geez, reminds me of those continuing parental lessons taught throughout childhood: Listen to to your mother.  Keep your hands to yourselves at all times.

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