A group of criminal defense lawyers representing eight business executives charged in a conspiracy to bribe a fictitious defense minister are backing off a fight with the Justice Department over the pace of the proceedings in Washington's federal district court.
Twenty-two individuals in the arms dealing business are charged in the case with alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices act, and Justice Department lawyers want the prosecution designated as complex to bar any one of the defendants from having a trial, potentially, within weeks. The charges stem from an undercover investigation that lasted for more than two years.
The defense lawyers and prosecutors met today in the sixth floor ceremonial courtroom of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for an hour-long hearing on the dispute. Judge Richard Leon did not immediately rule.
DOJ Fraud Section supervisor Hank Walther, a lead attorney in the case, argued today that the number of defendants, the nature of the prosecution and novel questions of law all add up to make the case complex. Walther said there is “voluminous” discovery—including hundreds of thousands of investigative records and more than 5,000 recorded phone calls. “The defense has asked for a whole lot,” he said, “and the defense has received a whole lot.”
Walther noted that some of the defense lawyers in the case are planning to raise novel legal questions in the FCPA arena—including entrapment and whether or not the FCPA allows for a case in which there is a fake government official.
Leon asked the lawyers who are no longer opposing the Justice Department’s request to toll the speedy trial clock to come up to the podium, one by one, to announce their client’s intentions on the record.
The line-up of lawyers included Peter Zeidenberg of DLA Piper, Danny Onorato of Schertler & Onorato, Steptoe & Johnson’s Brian Heberlig and Michael Madigan of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. The defense attorneys didn’t announce in court the reasons they were retreating from their opposition.
Still, there are a group of defense lawyers who argued today that the government should not be allowed to push off trial down the road. Jeremy Margolis of Loeb & Loeb said the government’s evidence in the case against his client is “simple.” Margolis described the case as a couple of phone calls and a couple of meetings.
Several other defense lawyers—including Drinker Biddle & Reath’s Charles Leeper and David Krakoff of Mayer Brown—did not make any argument today and instead rested on their submitted court papers.
Leon said the case will pose a challenge for the court since a jury will not be able to handle 22 defendants in one trial. One of the complexities, Leon said, will be dividing up the case for the purposes of trial——assuming there is a trial. At this point, several of the defendants are expected to take plea deals.