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03/20/2006

Frank Quattrone: One Step Closer To The Truth

Today, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals finally brought the legal system to its senses and tossed out Frank Quattrone’s conviction from his second trial (the first ended in a hung jury).  The decision, which you can read here, gives Frank the opportunity for a new trial before a new judge.

As I have written before, the case against Frank asks a jury to accept a series of laughable contradictions and caricatures that make no sense.  On the one hand Frank was an omni-potent Wall Street god so skilled in high power corporate intrigue that he could easily discern the fined grained legal intentions of the government with ease, while on the other hand Frank was a panicked and lazy moron who fired off a single, superfluous 22 word e-mail to 500+ people as the sole act of an incredibly clumsy, wildly obvious and highly amateurish attempt to obstruct justice.  Indeed, it would all be amusing at some level if the government hadn't disingenuously conned a jury into buying their sensationalized heap of contradictions with the acquiescence of obviously hostile and clearly over the hill judge.

As some may remember, I also wrote about the appeal last July and theorized that the appeals court would be hard pressed not to overturn the conviction.  Nine months later, it’s nice to see that the failsafes on the legal system are at least partially effective, but today’s decision likely does not end this unfortunate saga of prosecutorial abuse, it just sends it into a third Act.

Following The Wrong Instructions
While the circuit court determined that a number of serious errors were made during the trial, the most serious error appears to have been some faulty instructions from the judge to the jury.  Specially, the judge in effect told the jury that they could convict Frank of obstructing justice even if they did not believe that he actually intended to obstruct justice.  If this sounds silly to you, just imagine how it sounds to an appeal judge.  Now you can see why they tossed the conviction.

The appeals court also found that the trial judge improperly excluded a least one key piece of evidence and improperly allowed the prosecutors to pursue some clearly prejudicial lines of questioning.

Judging the Judge
For anyone in doubt as to how the appeals court really felt, they topped their whole decision off by assigning the new trial to another judge.  While the appeals court went to great lengths not to criticize the octogenarian trial judge directly, it’s abundantly clear from their decision that they felt the judge made numerous errors outside of his jury instructions.   Rather than address these issues in detail and embarrass “one of their own” the appeals court just heavily hinted that they hoped the next judge would pay heed to their various criticisms and make better decisions.

It should not be overlooked that the decision to assign the case to a new judge is actually a huge win for Frank as the previous judge not only had a reputation for being a prosecutor’s best friend, but he had developed a particularly evident dislike for Frank (which, having seen him in action, I can personally attest to).   While the appeals court didn’t accuse him of overt bias towards the prosecution, their decision to remove the case from him indicates otherwise.

Groundhog Day
The good news for Frank is that he not only gets a new trial and a new judge, but that he will get a more level playing field in terms of some types of evidence and testimony.  The bad news is that the appeals court ruled that in theory there was enough evidence presented to convict Frank and ruled that many pieces of evidence that Frank had either attempted to introduce or exclude were properly handled by the trial judge.  Assuming the government does not come to its senses and drop the case, this bad news, plus the high profile of the case, seems to guarantee a third trial and that will simply prolong the tragedy of this case, making no one a winner.

March 20, 2006 | Permalink

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The thoughts and opinions on this blog are mine and mine alone and not affiliated in any way with Inductive Capital LP, San Andreas Capital LLC, or any other company I am involved with. Nothing written in this blog should be considered investment, tax, legal,financial or any other kind of advice. These writings, misinformed as they may be, are just my personal opinions.