|Judge Eduardo C. Robreno|
They haven't picked a jury yet but the lawyers in the rogue cops case are already going at it.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony J. Wzorek today challenged defense lawyer Michael J. Diamondstein on his claim that the government may have perpetrated a fraud on a grand jury by putting a witness on the stand who perjured himself.
Turning toward Diamonstein and speaking in a loud voice, Wzorek told the defense lawyer, "We look forward to answering that." The prosecutor told Diamondstein that he and the other defense lawyers in the case could call him as a witness to see if those charges were true.
The prosecutor's baiting of the defense lawyers did not go over with U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo C. Robreno.
"Address the court," the judge snapped.
Diamonstein, who represents former Police Officer John Speiser, started the ruckus on Sunday when he filed a motion seeking to quash the RICO indictment of his client. In his motion, Diamonstein charged that the perjury committed by the witness identified only as "C.C." was "easily and readily identifiable by the government's agents." But the feds chose to willfully ignore it, exhibiting a "reckless disregard for the truth," Diamondstein charged.
Clearly those were fighting words to Wzorek.
In oral arguments, Diamonstein raised the ante, telling the judge, "The government made a big mistake here."
"We really messed up here," Diamondstein said about the feds' use of a false witness. The only way out, the defense lawyer said, was to go begging to the judge.
"We're asking you to rescue us," Diamonstein said about the prosecutor's request to have the judge strike two counts from the indictment, as well as "Episode 13" from a list of alleged police misconduct.
Wzorek, who jousted with Diamonstein during oral arguments, jumped up to respond, but before he could utter a word the judge slapped him down again.
"I think that's enough," the judge told the frustrated prosecutor.
The defense wanted to stop the feds from dropping the two counts and Episode 13 from the indictment. But Judge Robreno denied that motion. The judge told the lawyers in the case that he would consider at a future date the issue of whether the defense would be able to tell the jury about the withdrawn counts, as well as Episode 13.
In Episode 13, the officers allegedly "kicked in the front door" of C.C.'s house and stole $3,200 from him. But when C.C. testified to a jury in his criminal case he never mentioned the robbery. And when C.C. filed a civil suit against the cops seeking damages, he stated he didn't have any money the day the cops kicked down his door, according to Diamonstein's motion.
In the government's response, the U.S. Attorney's office said they did not become aware of C.C.'s civil suit until March 4, 2015. The government then met with C.C. and his lawyer in the civil case. On March 13, the government filed a motion to withdraw Episode 13.
The feds, however, in their official response, and today in court, did not challenge Diamonstein's allegations that the government granted C.C. immunity and allowed him to testify before the grand jury without ever interviewing C.C.
The prosecutor today also conceded in court that the government never looked at the transcript from C.C.'s criminal case until Diamonstein attached those records to his motion to quash the indictment.
C.C. was arrested by the cops who are defendants in the RICO case on March 10, 2010 and charged him with possession with intent to distribute. The criminal case ended in a hung jury.
"We didn't have those notes until Mr. Diamond presented them," Wzorek told the judge about the transcripts of the criminal case.
The prosecutor, backpedaling all the way, acknowledged to the judge that there were "inconsistencies" in C.C.'s testimony but he denied that it rose to the level of perjury.
The judge told Diamondstein that he would delay a ruling on whether to quash the indictment of Speiser.
The lawyers in the case then turned their attention to jury selection, as the clerk was preparing to bring in a panel of about 200 prospective jurors.
The case, scheduled to begin March 30, is expected to last 10 weeks, lawyers on both sides agreed.
Today's hearing was attended by reporters from the Inquirer, Daily News, KYW and Big Trial. That may have alarmed the prosecutor, whose case and credibility were taking a hit. Wzorek asked for a sidebar conference.
The judge, at the request of the prosecutor, then imposed a gag order that will prevent lawyers in the case from talking to the media.