Calling him the mastermind of a conspiracy to manufacture trial evidence in a drug case, federal prosecutors in Washington are recommending a longtime defense lawyer here spend more than six years in prison.
The attorney, Charles Daum, was convicted after a six-week bench trial in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last summer on charges that included obstruction of justice. Daum, 66, had been a member of the D.C. bar for more than three decades. He is no longer practicing.
Prosecutors said Daum, with the help of two private investigators, participated in an elaborate scheme to dupe jurors into believing that drugs belonged to the brother of a client. At trial in 2008, the jury in the case against Daum's client, Delante White, failed to agree on a verdict. Prosecutors, relying on the cooperation of White and others, later determined the trial photos were staged.
"There are few things that are more an affront to the court and the justice system than a willful attempt to subvert that system, particularly when it is masterminded by a member of the court's own bar," Darrin McCullough, a U.S. Justice Department narcotics section trial attorney, said in a sentencing memo.
Prosecutors recommended Daum serve 78 months in prison—the top of a 63-to-78-month guideline range. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler is scheduled to sentence Daum on March 12.
"Given his proven history of engaging in obstructive and fraudulent conduct, and his position at the apex of the conspiracy, the government requests he receive the high end of his applicable guideline range," McCullough said in court papers.
Daum's attorney, David Schertler of Washington's Schertler & Onorato, said in a sentencing memo that appropriate punishment is about a year in prison.
"Mr. Daum is ashamed to come before the court in this posture," Schertler said. Instead of leaving the law proudly, "his career has ended in infamy, and he understands that he will spend some portion of his remaining lifetime in prison."
Daum, Schertler said, didn't benefit personally from the conduct alleged at trial. Schertler called the conduct "unquestionably wrong."
The only possible motive for the conduct shown at trial, Schertler said, "appears to have been excessive and seriously misguided zeal" to help a client who was facing a 20-year prison sentence.
"That fact does not excuse Mr. Daum or the indefensible decisions that the Court has found that he made," Schertler said. "But it does distinguish him from defendants who engage in comparable conduct for personal enrichment."
Delante White and three others, including two of his brothers, were charged and convicted for their role in the conspiracy to dupe jurors. White and the relatives, who cooperated with prosecutors, blamed Daum.
At trial, Daum pinned blame on White for creating and executing the plan to stage photos showing White's brother with drugs. White was sentenced to 33 months for his part in the scheme; three other testifying co-conspirators each got six months.
"At age 66, Mr. Daum is an outcast from the legal community that he worked so hard and overcame adversity to join," Schertler said. "He has squandered his accomplishments and will live with the constant and heavy burden of that regret."
In the government's court papers, McCullough said the defendants are "hardly neophytes." He added that "it is noteworthy that despite the overwhelming evidence against them, the defendants remain defiant and unrepentant."