I am describing the prosecution’s presentation to the Court at my criminal trial.
The prosecution had about 10 witnesses at trial who were investors in a Fund that I administrated as part of a five-person committee. None of the witnesses were people I knew or had asked them to invest. Some of them I talked with about their paperwork because that was my job. Not one of the witnesses of the prosecution said I was the reason they invested in the Fund, even when they were asked the question.
The name of the man that owned the company I worked for, Stan, came up or was strongly inferred with nearly every witness’ testimony. The Government knew that Stan was the linchpin and the witnesses were reinforcing that with every person that raised their right hand and took an oath. At times, it was obvious that Stan was being prosecuted during my case more than I was. Yet, the Government never called Stan as a witness likely because there was so much unknown in dealing with Stan that it was too much of a slippery slope. Stan had pleaded guilty and became a Government witness by the time of my trial. Stan hadn’t been truthful so many times over many years that it would be hard to have him be a credible witness, was mine, and others’ conclusions.
Stan had a significant business relationship with most/all of the Government witnesses/investors associated with an unrelated company, not the Fund that was the focus of the trial. Years ago, the investors trusted Stan for their investment selection, and due to their generally unsophisticated understanding of investments, the witnesses/investors really couldn’t say what they were invested in and what they signed.
There were times when I felt bad for the investors because not only did they not understand what happened, but they had moved on and seemed reluctant to revisit this debacle. One witness was asked, “You don’t have any written notes. So you’re just testifying on your memory what the Government gave you?” and the witness answered, “That’s right”. There were times when the witness was asked directly, “You were not relying on anything (referring to me) may have told you directly?” and the witness said, “she didn’t speak to me directly, no sir.”
As I reviewed the trial testimony, it was clear that none of the investors said they knew me. They would say, “someone called me from the home office” and the inference was that it was me, but my name wasn’t used. When asked about me often there would be an agreement that the witness knew that I was on the committee or they had seen my name on a paper. Maybe even that they received some correspondence confirming their investment from me. There was nothing in writing, signed by me that was ever produced that was evidence that I was dishonest with investors. There were memos produced by the committee that I think should have done a better job of keeping the investor informed. That’s a long story.
As each Government witness stepped up to the witness chair, I listened as intently as I ever have to anything in my life. No exaggeration. I took in every scrap of each witnesses’ communication. I took notes and I asked others later for advice. I was learning how to become a witness. I had a front-row seat and there was no one more interested in my case than me.
I knew that I was reasonably intelligent enough to be a good witness. That was not the issue. I knew the truth better than anyone in the room and I wanted it to be told probably more than anyone too. That was not the issue. The issue was at the moment that I am asked to come to the witness chair, how to clear my mind enough to have the right amount of emotion, respect for the Government, detail, and veracity on what was being asked of me and not answering what was not asked. It shouldn’t have felt like it was going to be walking a tight rope but that is what comes to mind.
I could be afraid or I could prepare. I still had a few choices that were up to me. After tremendous amounts of time assessing who I was and what I needed to do, here is what I came up with when I was going to be asked a question by the prosecution, the Court or the defense attorneys:
- Can I say exactly the truth?
- Can I defend it?
- Can I say it respectfully?
It seemed like a simple formula and simple was like a breath of fresh air at that point. Soon, I would have to apply what I believed to be the best way to testify to one of the most important and difficult things I had ever done.
I was consumed by the legal community throughout the trial. I observed them. I admired them. I wondered why and how our criminal justice system had gotten to this point and if it bothered the people that were handling my case like it did a newcomer like me. It seemed like there was so much “procedure” and not much substance.
There’s never a good time to make my naive inquiries to these professionals. Everyone is always busy. It seemed to me exactly why nothing significant will change. Everyone is so busy doing what generally doesn’t work. These were very intelligent people that are bogged down with process and procedures. Justice still seemed simple to me.
Clarity feels rare these days. What is the one thing that you have the most clarity about in your life?