In a rare criminal prosecution of a defense lawyer, a prosecutor today at trial accused a veteran attorney in Washington of devising a scheme to use fake evidence and perjured testimony to clear a client in a drug case.
The defense lawyer, Charles Daum, was charged last year in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with orchestrating a conspiracy to dupe jurors into believing that a brother of his client was guilty in the drug prosecution.
After a mistrial was declared in 2008 in the drug case, prosecutors determined that the defendant, along with three other people, were involved in the conspiracy. The cooperators later pinned blame on Daum and two private investigators. The credibility of the cooperators will be central to the defense at Daum’s trial.
A Justice department lawyer, Tritia Yuen, said today at Daum’s bench trial that Daum hatched what he called a “game plan” to clear his client Delante White on drug charges.
The government presented a “constructive possession” case against White, arguing that the drugs found in an apartment in Washington belonged to him even though he was not home at the time the authorities served a search warrant.
At White's trial, Daum attacked the evidence, arguing that the drugs belonged to one of White’s brothers. To convince jurors, Daum showed a photo of the brother cutting up crack cocaine. That photo, Yuen told U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler today, was staged at Daum’s direction.
The government, Yuen said, will play recorded phone calls in which White and others discuss obtaining evidence “for the lawyer.” The authorities recorded calls White made during his incarceration.
Daum’s lawyer, David Schertler of Washington’s Schertler & Onorato, said Daum is not on the calls making any incriminating statement. Daum wanted evidence helpful to his client, Schertler told the judge today. As all defense lawyers want, Schertler insisted. But Daum, he said, did not craft a criminal scheme to obtain it.
Rather, Daum followed his ethical obligation to present to jurors information that his client, White, presented to him. Schertler and the lawyers for the two private investigators blamed White and the three other conspirators with setting up and executing the plan to dupe jurors.
Schertler described White as “charismatic, smart and conniving,” saying he was more than capable of putting the fake evidence scheme together. Yuen, in her opening statement, said White and the three others lacked the legal experience and sophistication to carry out the plot.
The four main government witnesses, including White, are “admitted perjurers,” Schertler said today in court. They each stood to gain from lying to investigators and prosecutors when the cooperators agreed to blame Daum for everything.
White, Schertler said, was looking at spending the rest of his life in prison if he didn't work out a deal to cooperate and put everything on Daum.