Posted Jun 26, 2012 03:48 pm CDT
An unusual prosecution of a longtime defense lawyer over an alleged scheme to present faked evidence at a client’s drug trial has resulted in a government win.
After a monthlong bench trial, attorney Charles Daum was found guilty of obstruction and, along with two private investigators, guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., reports the Blog of Legal Times.
Although the defense argued that Daum had not participated in the claimed conspiracy to present staged photos to the jury in the drug case, Senior U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said the lawyer’s client, Delante White, and others involved could not have cooked up the complex and “nefarious” scheme by themselves. The evidence credited with obtaining a mistrial for White in the drug case included photos of White’s brother seemingly working with crack cocaine and duplicates of the evidence seized in a 2008 raid of White’s home.
White was jailed at the time, and jailhouse phone recordings of conversations between White and others were given significant weight by the judge. Even though Daum’s name was rarely spoken, Kessler said the recordings made the attorney’s leadership role in the evidence-fabricating scheme clear, the BLT reports.
White and three others were initially charged in the scheme, then cut beneficial plea deals by helping the government pursue a case against Daum. Critics of the prosecution pointed to the cooperators’ role, as well as the apparent lack of motive—he received just $6,000 for defending White—in expressing their concern about possible overreaching by the government and the chilling effect the case could have on other defense lawyers.
“In his zeal to defend his client, Mr. Daum betrayed his profession and obstructed justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Criminal Division said in a Friday written statement. “It’s astounding that a lawyer could commit these crimes, which undermine the integrity of our criminal justice system. The court found Mr. Daum guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and he now faces prison time as a result.”
Daum’s counsel, David Schertler, declined to comment after the verdict, the BLT reports. However, partner Bernie Grimm of Cozen O’Connor, who represented the two private investigators, said the verdict would have an unfortunate, albeit unintended, “chilling effect on solo practitioners that are easy targets for the Justice Department.” He also predicted that the verdict will “require criminal defense lawyers to further distance themselves from their clients.”
ABAJournal.com: “‘Shocked’ Crim Defense Attorney Is Charged in Fake-Evidence Case, Denies Wrongdoing”