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.


"Paralegal pleads not guilty in fraud, theft"

I hate news like this about paralegals. Innocent until proven guilty, of course....:

"A Ware County paralegal was released on $20,000 bail Tuesday after pleading not guilty to federal charges of bank fraud and theft of government funds.

"Gina A. Wooten, 50, of Waycross, is accused of stealing more than $110,000 in a bank fraud scheme that an FBI investigation revealed involved forged signatures on federal bankruptcy checks.

"Wooten also is accused of stealing more than $1,000 from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The money was in the form of official checks from the bankruptcy trustee, a March 8 federal indictment showed.

"In an initial appearance, U.S. Magistrate James Graham arraigned Wooten and set the conditions of her bail, which include restricting her travel to southeast Georgia except for medical appointments in Jacksonville, Fla."


"Princeton paralegal charged with theft"

NOT the kind of news about paralegals I like to read:

"A paralegal here with the Cooper Levenson law firm has been charged with theft by deception and forgery after allegedly ripping off a client’s account of $6,000, police said.

"

Kara Swinney, 35, of Washington Street, Trenton, surrendered at police headquarters Tuesday and was arrested by Detective Sgt. Scott Porreca following an investigation.

"'The law firm uncovered this, and reported it to us,' said Detective Sgt. Ernie Silagyi, Princeton Township Police Department spokesman. 'We understand they discovered it after she left the firm.'"


"Enron Defense Firm Stuck With the Tab"

I guess this shouldn't be surprising news to anyone who's followed the Enron mess:

"To the list of employees, investors and businesses who suffered financial misfortune in Enron Corp.'s demise, add this one: the law firm defending former chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling.

"Los Angeles-based O'Melveny & Myers LLP, which has represented Skilling on both civil and criminal charges since 2001, collected what in a typical case would be a fat payday: $23 million from its client and $17 million more from his insurance policies.

"But, true to form, Enron is still destroying financial expectations. Even before the trial began in January, Skilling's team of more than 20 lawyers, paralegals and support staff burned through those funds, leaving the law firm holding the bag for 'multiple tens of millions' of dollars in unpaid fees and expenses racked up during the four-month trial, Skilling's lead defense lawyer said. While Daniel M. Petrocelli declined to provide an exact tally, one source put the price tag at more than $25 million on top of the $40 million O'Melveny already collected."


Computer Forensics 101 for paralegals & others

This free course can give paralegals a valuable skill:

"Project Leadership Associates, Inc. (PLA),continues to meet the demands of the legal industry and corporate counsel by offering a Computer Forensics Training Session in Chicago on Tuesday, June 27th.

"Computer Forensics 101 is a free training session hosted by PLA. Our introduction to Computer Forensics is designed for attorneys, corporate counsel, paralegals and litigation support personnel from both law firms and corporate legal departments.

"Benjamin Pavalon, CISSP, MCSE, will be presenting this one-hour session, he will discuss the basic strategies and protocols behind a computer forensic investigation. He will help you better understand how to prepare, what to look for and what questions to ask at the start of an investigation.

"With computer crimes on the rise, companies are becoming more aware of intellectual property risk and exposure to litigation. Investigations against trade secret theft, fraud and employment issues are increasingly becoming electronic issues. The need for computer forensics is growing in all areas of litigation including personal injury, intellectual property, contract disputes, matrimony, spam, fax blast and more."


"Improper SEC and DOJ Cooperation Can Get Charges Dismissed"

For those involved in SEC, Sarbanes-Oxley, & representing public corporations, this is a very interesting article from the Legal Times....

"The aggressive expansion of white-collar prosecutions to areas regulated by civil enforcement agencies sometimes leads to unintended results -- including significant defeats -- for prosecutors.

"In two recent cases trial courts ruled that the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission failed to conduct independent investigations. If these decisions are representative of a new trend, the result may impose meaningfully new constraints on white-collar prosecutions.

[snip]

"...two district court opinions, from last year's HealthSouth criminal case in the Northern District of Alabama (United States v. Scrushy) and from last month in the District of Oregon (United States v. Stringer), imposed significant sanctions on the government because of findings of improper coordination between civil and criminal agencies."