Monday, January 18, 2010

Something that must worry a few lawyers

After a lengthy sentencing hearing on Thursday, January 14, Joseph Collins was consigned to seven years in prison in a connection with a scheme to help executives at the defunct commodities broker Refco conceal its financial troubles. He had been convicted of his part in that scheme in July.

After the eight week trial, a mistrial was declared on some of the counts, but the jury did convict on conspiracy, two counts of securities fraud, and two counts of wire fraud.

The federal district court judge involved, Robert P. Paterson, sentenced Collins, formerly of Mayer Brown LLP partner, to the seven-year term to be followed by three years of supervised release, saying, "I think this is a case of excessive loyalty to his client," the judge said. Collins' lawyer, William J. Schwartz, vowed an appeal.

The jury deliberations appear to have been quite contentious (hence the partial mistrial). In particular, a male juror identified as "Kevin" told that court that a female juror "Abigail," had threatened to cut off his finger and to have her husband come after him (to cut off other bits?). Separately, security personnel reported having heard jurors screaming at each other.

All this passion, even to the point of threats, may have somethig to do with the idea and idealof a lawyer as a zealous advocate -- a notion deeply engrained in the culture in the U.S. Perhaps so deeply engrained that the idea that a lawyer could be too zealous in Collins' situation itself offended either Kevin or Abigail -- I don't know which.

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