Updated 12:28 p.m.
The Justice Department announced today it wants to abandon a high-profile foreign bribery case in the wake of two earlier mistrials and rulings from the trial judge that did not favor the government.
Prosecutors said in a two-page court filing this morning in Washington federal district court that the government has "carefully considered" the outcome of the first two trials in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act undercover sting case.
Those two trials lasted a combined six months and produced two deadlocked panels and three acquittals. Sixteen defendants remain out of 22 charged in January 2010 in a novel bribery prosecution that employed undercover techniques rarely used in the white-collar enforcement arena.
Prosecutors today also pointed to the trial judge’s rulings in the case as a basis for walking away from the litigation. Those decisions restricted, among other things, the ability of the government to tell jurors about alleged other misdeeds among the defendants.
At the last trial, the judge threw out the overarching conspiracy charge, a significant blow for the government.
“In light of all of the foregoing, the government respectfully submits that continued prosecution of this case is not warranted under the circumstances,” DOJ lawyers said in today’s court filing (PDF).
DOJ attorneys said "substantial governmental resources, as well as judicial, defense, and jury resources" would be needed to continue with four or more trials.
DOJ lawyers, including Laura Perkins of the Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Solomon, asked U.S. District Judge Richard Leon to dismiss the superseding indictment with prejudice.
Leon earlier this month scheduled a hearing this afternoon at 2 p.m. to discuss the next steps in the case.
DOJ attorneys had informed Leon that top department officials, including Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr., were reviewing the continued viability of the sting case.
BuckleySandler partner David Krakoff said in a statement that the Justice Department ended a "two year nightmare" for his client.
"We recognize that this was a difficult decision given the substantial resources that the government invested in this case," Krakoff said. "It's really hard to take on the government, but when you believe in your innocence and fight for your freedom, these cases can be won."
Lisa Prager, a partner at Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer, said in a statement this morning: "I am very pleased with the government's dismissal. For my client, it has been a long two years. I believe it was a wise decision to put this case, finally, to rest."