Longtime criminal defense lawyer Charles Daum contends prosecutors in Washington haven't offered a motive to explain why he would jeopardize his career and his freedom to help a client charged with drug offenses.
Daum and two criminal defense investigators, Iman Pasha and Daaiyah Pasha, are charged in Washington federal district court for their alleged roles in a scheme to dupe jurors through fabricated evidence and perjured testimony.
Prosecutors contend Daum orchestrated the scheme in 2008 during his defense work for a client named Delante White. The presiding judge declared a mistrial in the drug case against White. White and three other people later cooperated with prosecutors to pin blame for the mistrial on Daum and two defense investigators, saying they hatched a plot that involved using staged photographs.
Justice Department lawyers last week offered the first glimpse of how the government wants to pitch the obstruction of justice case against Daum to jurors. The theme: The alleged conspiracy in White’s drug case wasn’t the first time Daum ran afoul of ethics laws in representing a client.
Prosecutors in the DOJ narcotics section want to tell jurors that Daum on at least two other occasions bent the rules to benefit a client.
The attorneys, including Donnell Turner, said in court papers filed on Feb. 8 that Daum devised a false recantation in a murder case in 2008 in D.C. Superior Court. The prosecutors said Daum tried to trick jurors, in a separate case, into thinking that a client’s alleged drug money was legitimate business income.
Prosecutors said the alleged “other crimes” evidence will give jurors greater context for understanding the charged conspiracy stemming from White’s drug case. The evidence from the earlier two cases, prosecutors contend, also reveals motive.
“At trial, the government intends to introduce evidence that the defendants’ unlawful actions were motivated, at least in part, by their desire to obtain additional compensation during the course of representing Delante White in the underlying drug case,” prosecutors said in court papers.
There’s no certainty that Senior U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler will allow the government to present evidence of the two prior instances of uncharged, alleged obstruction of justice involving Daum.
Daum’s lawyer, David Schertler of Washington’s Schertler & Onorato, was not immediately reached for comment. Daum’s defense lawyers could argue that the alleged other instances of uncharged unethical behavior are highly inflammatory and not relevant to Daum’s conduct in representing White.
The case against Daum is largely built on statements that White and three other people, including two of his brothers, made to investigators after the mistrial. Daum’s attorneys said the cooperators have “acknowledged history of fabricating evidence.”
Attacking the credibility of the witnesses likely will be central to Daum’s defense. Schertler wants Kessler to prevent prosecutors from telling jurors about statements the government’s chief witnesses made to investigators about Daum and the Pashas. Daum’s attorneys said the cooperating witnesses had “obvious incentives to implicate others in order to curry favor with the government.”
The indictment against Daum, Schertler said in a court filing, doesn’t provide a reason why Daum and the Pashas “would engage in the charged conduct and risk their livelihoods and liberty for the sake of Mr. White. Nor does the indictment allege that Mr. Daum or the Pashas personally benefited, monetarily or otherwise, from the charged conduct.”
Schertler said shortly after Daum was indicted that "the charges threaten to chill the important work done by all criminal defense attorneys in our ethical obligation to zealously defend our clients." Daum, his attorney said, vowed to fight the allegations at trial "to vindicate both his personal and professional reputation.”
Kessler has scheduled a pretrial conference for March 12. Daum’s trial is set for April.