A reader shared with me an item by Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press. I am interrupting the suspension of my blog to share the item with you here.
This matter comes before the Court on its own motion. On March 5, 2020, a jury returned a verdict in this case, finding that Defendants Greg Lindberg and John Gray were guilty of Conspiring to Commit Honest Services Wire Fraud, and Aiding and Abetting in Federal Funds Bribery. Shortly thereafter, this Court learned that an individual affiliated with Defendants was reaching out to the jurors in this matter. When a juror declined to speak with that individual, they were allegedly told, "don't you know these men could get life?" Neither offense includes a possible punishment of life imprisonment.
The Court reported this behavior to the United States Attorney's Office to commence a criminal investigation for jury harassment and intimidation. The Court also e-mailed the parties and instructed them that jury harassment and intimidation would not be tolerated. In response, on March 17, 2020, the Court received an email from Matt McCusker, a Senior Consultant and President with Convince LLC. In an attachment, McCusker informed the Court that he was a "Litigation Consultant who was retained by the defense in US v. Lindberg, Gray and Palermo." McCusker stated that, after the verdict, "[he] began reaching out to jurors to see if they would be willing to discuss the case with [him]." He assured the Court that, if jurors declined to speak, he "thanked them for their time and told them that they would not be hearing from [him] again." Finally, he underscored, "[t]o be crystal clear, there was no harassment, intimidation, or bullying" because "[t]hat type of behavior is unethical."
The Court reviewed the website of Convince LLC. When describing its post-trial juror interview services, Convince LLC maintains it can "benefit" litigants by "find[ing] out if a juror Googled during deliberations," which will "arm [the parties] for an appeal" and "[p]repare for the next iteration of [the] trial." The Court will not tolerate attempts to taint the jury's verdict by applying undue pressure on jury members. To maintain the integrity of the jury and criminal justice process, the Court now enters the following Order.
IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED that Defendants Lindberg and Gray, as well as their attorneys and agents, including Matt McCusker, SHALL NOT contact the jurors during the ongoing investigation that is being conducted by the United States Attorney's Office and until further order of this Court.The full order, including the citations and the McCusker attachments, is in the complimentary package offered at the end of this post. Readers may also visit McCusker's website at convincellc.com.
We will not be the same country when this is over. We can't be. We shouldn't be. Right now, the focus is, as it must be, on the immediate crisis at hand. It looms over us with a darkness that stretches forth without a horizon in sight.
These will be sad and scary times. People will suffer, and many will die. It will reach into everyone's life. For some, the loss will be marked in the passing of friends and loved ones, close and personal. Others might escape such an immediate toll, but the economic pain will be widespread. Here too, it will be uneven, inflicting the greatest cost on the poorest, most vulnerable, and most desperate. It will also strike some industries much deeper than others.
I can't help but reflect on other moments of hardship, anxiety and suffering. I was born into the Great Depression, and the images of abject poverty among my neighbors, the hopelessness of job searches, the ache of empty bellies, are etched in my consciousness. So too are memories of the war that soon followed. The very real sense that the world might end with a triumph of evil. The fathers who went off to battle and never returned. The dawning of the atomic era that ended the conflict. In the course of my work I have seen many other moments like these, where fear and tragedy raged, although most were more localized.
What I have also seen is that from crisis can emerge opportunity. We humans tend not to be good at anticipating problems. We seem to think good times will continue, even as we make decisions that leave ourselves vulnerable. But we are good at fixing things. We are capable of great energy, ingenuity, and that most important quality, empathy.
This nation, and the larger world, long have been broken in ways that have too often gone unaddressed. This is a wake-up call to our economic and healthcare insecurity. It is a reminder of why we must work with other nations to fix global problems. It is evidence that competency and truth-telling in government are paramount for the security of the United States. It is a rallying cry to strengthen the common bonds of our humanity.
We are being tested. In part, it is because we have let ourselves get to this point. That is where we are. We cannot change the past. But we can work our might on the present, and then resolve to fix our weaknesses going forward.
It is easy to blame leadership. They deserve the blame they are getting. But the rot that led to this moment is more systemic. When we emerge from this crisis, and we surely will, we must follow a path of renewal and improvement of how we structure our society, its economy, its health, its social obligations, and its politics. We are seeing the cost of failure. We have no choice but to forge ahead. And forging into a better, more just future, has been the American way. I, for one, continue to believe with all my heart, it will be that way yet again.
19. A "Ponzi" or "Ponzi scheme" is an investment fraud scheme that involves the payment of claimed returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors. Ponzi scheme organizers often solicit new investors by promising to invest funds in opportunities claimed to generate high returns with little or no risk. In many Ponzi schemes, the participants focus on attracting new money to make promised payments to earlier-stage investors to create the false appearance that investors are profiting from a legitimate business. Ponzi schemes require a consistent flow of money from new investors to continue and tend to collapse when it becomes difficult to recruit new investors or when a large number of investors ask for their money back.
4. The Woodbridge Group of Companies LLC and its affiliates ("Woodbridge") was headquartered and ran its operations in the Central District of California, specifically Sherman Oaks, California. The defendants transacted business in the Central District of California while participating in the offer and sale of Woodbridge's securities over the course of more than 4 years. Among other things, the Defendants regularly communicated via telephone, email, text message and mail with Woodbridge employees who were located in Sherman Oaks, California. Additionally, Pittsenbargar met with Woodbridge executives in the District and from September until December 2017, Pittsenbargar was an employee of Woodbridge.
10. Unbeknownst to the Defendants' clients, many of whom were elderly and had invested their retirement savings as a result of the Defendants' marketing techniques, Woodbridge was actually operating a massive Ponzi scheme, raising more than $1.2 billion before collapsing in December 2017 and filing a petition for bankruptcy. Once Woodbridge filed for bankruptcy, investors stopped receiving their monthly interest payments, and have not received a return of their investment principal.
15. Robert H. Shapiro ("Shapiro") was a resident of Sherman Oaks, California at all material times. He was Woodbridge's owner, President and CEO and, until the company's bankruptcy filing, maintained sole operational control over the company. In August 2019 Shapiro pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with the Woodbridge Ponzi scheme, as well as tax evasion, and was subsequently sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. He is currently in federal custody. Shapiro is not, and has never been, registered with the Commission, FINRA, or any state securities regulator.
We, the undersigned, are alumni of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) who have collectively served both Republican and Democratic administrations. Each of us strongly condemns President Trump's and Attorney General Barr's interference in the fair administration of justice.
Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice. In this nation, we are all equal before the law. A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the President. Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.
For these reasons, we support and commend the four career prosecutors who upheld their oaths and stood up for the Department's independence by withdrawing from the Stone case and/or resigning from the Department. Our simple message to them is that we—and millions of other Americans—stand with them. And we call on every DOJ employee to follow their heroic example and be prepared to report future abuses to the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress; to refuse to carry out directives that are inconsistent with their oaths of office; to withdraw from cases that involve such directives or other misconduct; and, if necessary—to resign and report publicly—in a manner consistent with professional ethics—to the American people the reasons for their resignation. We likewise call on the other branches of government to protect from retaliation those employees who uphold their oaths in the face of unlawful directives. The rule of law and the survival of our Republic demand nothing less.
I am writing as a former official deeply concerned with the institutions of the Presidency and the Department of Justice. I realize that I am in the dark about many facts, but I hope my views may be useful.
It appears Mueller's team is investigating a possible case of "obstruction" by the President predicated substantially on his expression of hope that the [sic] Comey could eventually "let ... go" of its [the FBI's?] investigation of Flynn and his action in firing Comey. In pursuit of this obstruction theory, it appears that Mueller's team is demanding that the President submit to interrogation about these incidents, using the threat of subpoenas to coerce his submission.
Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction. Apart from whether Mueller [has?] a strong enough factual basis for doing so, Mueller's obstruction theory is fatally misconceived. As I understand it, his theory is premised on a novel and legally insupportable reading of the law. Moreover, in my view, if credited by the [Justice?] Department, it would have grave consequences far beyond the immediate confines of this case and would do lasting damage to the Presidency and to the administration of law within the Executive branch.
The government submits that Stone's total offense level is 29 and his Criminal History Category is I, yielding a Guidelines Range of 87-108 months.
Accordingly, Stone's total offense level is 29 (14 + 8 + 3 + 2 + 2), and his Criminal History Category is I. His Guidelines Range is therefore 87-108 months.
Roger Stone obstructed Congress's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, lied under oath, and tampered with a witness. And when his crimes were revealed by the indictment in this case, he displayed contempt for this Court and the rule of law. For that, he should be punished in accord with the advisory Guidelines.
For the foregoing reasons, it is respectfully submitted that the Court should impose a non-Guidelines sentence of probation with any conditions that the Court deems reasonable under the circumstances.
The defendant committed serious offenses and deserves a sentence of incarceration that is "sufficient but not greater than necessary" to satisfy the factors set forth in Section 353(a). Based on the facts known to the government, a sentence of between 87 to 108 months' imprisonment, however, could be considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances. Ultimately, the government defers to the Court as to what specific sentence is appropriate under the facts and circumstances of this case.
At bottom, given the absence of any factual or legal support for the motion for disqualification, the pleading appears to be nothing more than an attempt to use the Court docket to disseminate a statement for public consumption that has the words "judge" and "biased" in it. For these reasons, defendant's motion is hereby DENIED. SO ORDERED.