I was so terribly green at what the whole criminal justice system was, but not afraid to ask most questions that popped up in my head as they occurred. The Grand Jury sounded almost “royal” to me, untouchable and all-knowing. As I dug deeper and asked my questions, I got very concerned, not just for me but for the way that “we” use the Grand Jury.
I don’t think that the Grand Jury is being used the way that it was intended. This is a very presumptuous statement on my part, but because I have been through it, I am entitled to my opinion. I don’t think that a Grand Jury offers a level hand at presuming innocence from the start, which is the position all Grand Jurors should have when they first get seated.
If a Grand Jury’s purpose, in part, is to make sure that no one is charged that shouldn’t be, then it seems vital for the key people that might have evidence to be a part of that process. The fact that I didn’t know what evidence was being presented and couldn’t question or provide any of the evidence at a critical point when my life was about to change was daunting. The Grand Jury became a tool of the prosecution, and the prosecutor chose to withhold evidence that was favorable to me.
If my story had been told to the Grand Jury, these are some important points that I would have wanted included:
1. I invested in Fund III and asked a couple of friends and my parents to do so. Here are my signed investment documents and a bank statement showing funds leaving my account and going into Fund III’s account. We all lost money.
2. I loaned Fund III money and never got it back. Here is the original loan document and a personal bank statement showing the loaned funds coming out of my account and Fund III’s bank statement showing they received the loan.
3. There is the language in the Fund III offering circular explaining the remote circumstances under which the Fund committee could ever benefit from Fund III’s performance.
4. There is testimony from cooperating Government witnesses that defended themselves in civil actions with investors prior to the Government’s involvement.
I don’t know specifically what the prosecutor presented to the Grand Jury. I was never asked for any documents prior to the charges. When the Grand Jury is being told that they are evaluating my case for a probable cause determination that a crime has been committed in order for my case to move forward to a trial or a plea, there must be evidence of each element of the offense. The fact that I invested, loaned money, and had family and friend investors in what the Government describes as a scheme would be juxtapositioned to the element of “intent”. No one in the Grand Jury ever knew that and that information was one of many pieces of evidence that could have and should have been presented to them to make a proper decision on indictment.
Instead of presenting my written, documented loans, investments, etc…supporting the fact that I was aligned with Fund III as I was, Scott testified and lied to the Grand Jury. Written documents from the time of the alleged crime pale in comparison with selective, verbal cooperating witness recollection years later. The prosector was the person that decided what was presented and by whom. When Scott lied during the Grand Jury testimony, he wasn’t questioned by the prosecutor during the Grand jury testimony about his lies. Maybe the prosecutor didn’t know Scott was lying at the time, but shouldn’t the prosecutor know? Maybe the prosecutor let Scott lie. I don’t know. That’s why I would try and joke about it and say, “Scott free” so often.
Well after the Grand Jury had made their indictment decision to charge me, the Government charged Scott with perjuring himself by saying that Scott minimized his conduct and timing of when things happened. In a nutshell, Scott deflected his role to others in Fund III committee and said he left “early” to convince the prosecutors that Scott knew something was wrong and wanted out. The fact that Scott prepared the first “term sheet” that initiated Fund III was probably not brought up in the Grand Jury proceedings. The fact that Scott wanted to leave the Fund III committee but keep selling Fund III to others probably wasn’t discussed either.
My concern is that we have gotten so entrenched with the Grand Jury rubber-stamping what the prosecutor advocates for that we have lost our own sensibilities of fairness. Not many people understand or care about this until they discover it for themselves or a loved one.
I am concerned about who is on the Grand Jury too. Are they people that are actually interested in serving justice? I can’t tell you how many times that people that know about my case have commented on grand juries and trial juries and how desperately most people want to get out of serving.
There is often a herd mentality whereby the jurors vote with the majority.
There are people who are not paying attention, confused, afraid to ask questions, tired, not getting paid much, and thinking about where else they would like to be that are deciding my future.
None of this serves justice.
If I am to be properly “heard” in a court of law, I would like it to be by people who are listening and treat me like they would like to be treated and not like I am already convicted.
Given this current pandemic, there are rumors that criminal trials may allow jurors to serve from home. I can’t imagine. Once again, balancing our health concerns can’t infringe substantially on other rights, like the right of a fair trial.
How can a Grand Jury make an informed decision if they don’t know what is missing and they don’t know who is credible? How can a Judge separate the admitted lies from a key witness from other testimony to weigh if the indictment should stick? In making a decision to dismiss the charges, does the Judge favor the prosecutor who was in charge of the Grand Jury proceedings or the newly charged defendant that presented nothing at the Grand Jury? Clearly, I am biased and know what I think is right. I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in that thought.
By the time that we were on our second Motion to Dismiss the charges, I was beginning to appreciate when Dan, my attorney, would say that this is such an unusual case. It was my case, whatever it was. I had no choice but to behave my way through it.
Behaving my through it became a common thing for me to say. I said it to myself often. I had too much to lose if I didn’t just focus and do all that I could do to tell the truth. Often, I thought about behaving myself because my kids were watching too. As a parent, you are forever the example for your kids. I couldn’t go crazy with the latest twist in the case and expect that my kids wouldn’t notice. Kids notice everything even if they don’t say anything. They internalize it. You may find out years later about a specific situation and what they thought, saw, felt. It was all real to them and impacted them. My kids have shared some things that they observed with me when the case was happening and I find it interesting to hear their perspective and what they remember. I am thankful they don’t describe that time as “awful” because I didn’t want the case to spill over in their childhood any more than it had to.
My kids kept me accountable without saying a word. I loved and respected them too much to not show them that you can stand up for what you believe in even if the odds are stacked against you and it doesn’t work out the way it should.
At this time there were unsettling feelings about who my people were and what our relationships were moving toward. I knew our relationships were definitely significantly changing if they knew what was going on with the case. Understandably, the case became divisive. You either knew who I was and were offended by the Government because of what I was going through or you knew what was going on and believed that the Government was superior, right and was doing their job well to prosecute me.
I was initially offended that I lost some friends over the case. Now, with clearer vision, I am delighted that someone who didn’t know or believe me would fool me into thinking we were friends. This self vetting exercise was welcomed. I didn’t know I needed it. I briefly grieved for those people that showed me their reluctance to keep our friendships. Mostly, I profusely thanked people that I knew well and some that I barely knew that saw me for who I was and said so.
One of the first people to reach out to me when I was charged was a female professional I had only known a year and not worked with much. I still remember the sentiment she said. The essence of her very brief message was … just tell me you didn’t do it and I’ll believe you. I loved that.
If those bygone friends learned anything, I hope it is that we actually belong to each other. It’s easy to judge and harder to understand.
We are in a pandemic. Have you done some of the things that you never had time for or decided that you never will ever have time for them because you don’t really want to do them?