Jury selection continued Monday in a foreign bribery case in Washington federal district court, where the first group of four defendants are on are trial for their alleged roles in a conspiracy to bribe the defense minister of Gabon.
About seventy prospective jurors took their seats this morning in the courtroom of Judge Richard Leon of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The prosecutors and defense lawyers could get to opening statements this afternoon or by tomorrow morning.
The government alleges the defendants—Pankesh Patel, John Wier III, Andrew Bigelow and Lee Tolleson make up the first group to stand trial—participated in a scheme in which they agreed to provide an illegal payment to secure a military equipment contract with Gabon. In all, 22 people were charged in the conspiracy. Several defendants have pleaded guilty.
Federal agents built the prosecution around an undercover sting using a cooperating witness, a man whose credibility and integrity could be questioned during the trial by defense attorneys.
The prosecution team, which includes Joey Lipton of the Justice Department Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Haray, wants to prohibit defense attorneys from raising the issue of government misconduct.
The defense attorneys, including Kobre & Kim partner Eric Bruce in Washington, argue that federal agents broke internal rules and also failed to record all conversations between the cooperating witness, Richard Bistrong, and the defendants. (Bistrong is charged in a separate Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case in federal district court in Washington.)
Prosecutors said in court papers (PDF) filed Saturday that claims of alleged governmental misconduct in an investigation are matters left to a judge, not a jury.
Bruce said in court papers (PDF) filed May 12 that the “prosecution is built entirely around an irredeemably corrupt con-man, Richard Bistrong, and that, by mishandling him and by other misconduct, the government allowed Bistrong to contaminate every aspect of the operation.”