Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A System of Justice 'Systematically Destroyed'

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Lawrence J. Fox, a longtime Philadelphia lawyer who's a visiting lecturer at the Yale Law School, is an expert on teaching legal ethics and professional responsibility.

And Fox has harsh words for the conduct of former Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina, the lead prosecutor in the Jerry Sandusky case, as well as for Cynthia Baldwin, the former Penn State counsel who represented three top Penn State officials before the grand jury investigating Sandusky. That was before Baldwin flipped, at the behest of Fina, to become a prosecution witness, and testify against her former clients, an act of betrayal that horrified Fox.

"When lawyers feign representation, but in fact abandon their clients, and worse yet, become instrumentalities of the state, aiding the prosecution of their clients, the entire system of justice is systematically destroyed," Fox wrote in a 2013 filing recently unsealed in Dauphin County Common Pleas Court.

Tomorrow at 10 a.m. in Philadelphia, Fox will testify as an expert witness on behalf of the state Supreme Court's Disciplinary Board, to make the case that former prosecutor Fina is guilty of professional misconduct. But for those who can't wait for the hearing, Fox's scathing opinions of the alleged legal sins of Fina and Baldwin are laid out in the recently unsealed filing that has been completely ignored by reporters from the mainstream media; the same reporters who sought to have these documents unsealed. So it goes in the Penn State case, where media malpractice has been the norm.

"It is the Commonwealth whose lawyers were fully aware of the conflicts under which Ms. Baldwin was laboring at the time of the grand jury proceeding," Fox wrote, clearly referring to Fina, who questioned Baldwin in the grand jury after she flipped.

Fina was aware that Baldwin had a conflict of interest, Fox wrote, namely her decision to betray her former clients. Yet, Fina and his fellow prosecutors "stood silent," Fox wrote, and "took full advantage of the conflicts" to gather information to make a conspiracy and obstruction of justice case against those clients. But as part of his mission to seek the scalps of the three Penn State administrators, Fina had to mislead the grand jury judge, Fox wrote.

The prosecutors "never informed the court of the nature and extent of the conflicts" of interest posed by Baldwin's dual role in the case, Fox wrote. So that the court could fulfill its duty of assuring that the "rights of Messrs. [former Penn State vice president Gary] Schultz and [former Penn State athletic director Tim] Curley to effective representation were not systematically violated in the extreme."

In the unsealed filing, Fox ripped the Commonwealth's defense of Fina's actions.

"The Commonwealth actually asserts that because Messrs. Schultz and Curley were aware that Ms. Baldwin was general counsel for Penn State, they should have understood that they were merely second-class clients, and, as a result, are entitled to no attorney-client privilege whatsoever," Fox wrote.

But the Rules of Professional Conduct do not mention "a watered-down second-class version of clienthood," Fox wrote; the rules of Professional Conduct only define "one form of clienthood" that's subject to the attorney-client privilege.

Before she flipped, Fox wrote, Baldwin announced to "Schultz and Curley, the court, the grand jury, as well as the Commonwealth's lawyers" that she represented Schultz and Curley. But as their lawyer, Fox wrote, Baldwin was "required, in fact, to represent both of them to the full extent required by her fiduciary duties . . . the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct, the Pennsylvania statutory provisions covering the right to counsel before a grand jury" as well as the U.S. Constitution.

But in reality, Fox wrote, while Baldwin was representing her clients, "her fingers were crossed behind her back, and she never fully intended to fulfill that obligation, let alone warn them they would not receive the benefit of attorney-client privilege because of their second-class status."

"The law governing the attorney-client privilege in a joint representation is clear," Fox wrote. "There can be no waiver of the privilege unless each client has given his or her informed consent . . . to waive the privilege."

But the record of the case "demonstrates that there never was so much as a telephone call" to let Schultz and Curley know that the Commonwealth was seeking a waiver of the attorney-client privilege, and that Baldwin was planning to testify against her clients, Fox wrote.

By not telling her former clients she was about to stab them in the back, Fox wrote, Baldwin "turns the law of privilege literally upside-down, rendering it a false protection and leaving the clients helpless before the power of the Commonwealth."

That certainly was OK with Frank Fina. As for Baldwin, Fox wrote, her "sins here are both manifold and manifest. Turning against one's client is the greatest betrayal a lawyer can commit."

"But that is what Ms. Baldwin did here, stripping the clients of any opportunity to object to her misdeeds," Fox wrote. "Either she was subpoenaed to the grand jury or she voluntarily agreed to appear. Either way, she ran right through the red light by, in fact, testifying before the grand jury without notice to her former clients."

"No lawyer is permitted to disclose confidential information without the informed consent of the client," Fox wrote. "As a result of Ms. Baldwin's misconduct, Messrs. Schultz and Curley went six months without being aware of Ms. Baldwin's betrayal, and only learned of her shocking abandonment of her former clients when the new indictment was issued. Ms. Baldwin's conduct in this regard cries out for relief."

Fox labeled Baldwin's conduct as a "blatant betrayal . . . unprecedented in the annals of lawyer representation of clients."

And according to the disciplinary board's petition against Fina, it was Fina who set up that blatant betrayal by hoodwinking Judge Barry Feudale, then presiding over the grand jury investigating Sandusky.

On Oct. 22, 2012, Fina and Baldwin appeared before the judge in a conference to discuss Schultz and Curley's claim of attorney-client privilege in light of Baldwin's imminent appearance before the grand jury where the Commonwealth planned to have Baldwin testify against her former clients.

The petition notes that lawyers for Schultz, Curley, as well as former Penn State President Graham Spanier, who was also formerly represented by Baldwin, were not invited to the conference. At the conference, the petition says, Fina told the judge regarding the attorney-client privilege that he intended to "put those matters on hold" until the judge made a decision regarding the privilege, and "we can address that later on."

Penn State's counsel then argued that the judge should make a ruling on the attorney-client privilege first, before Baldwin testified. But Fina told the judge, "We need not address the privilege issue," because "we are not going to ask questions about" the grand jury testimony of Schultz and Curley, "and any preparation for, or follow-up they had" with Baldwin, Fox wrote.

Fina asked the judge to keep Baldwin's testimony secret so "We can address this privilege matter at a later date." That prompted the judge to tell Fina to proceed under the assumption that "you're not going to get into any inquiry as to [Baldwin's] representation" of her former clients.

But Fina double-crossed the judge, as well as broke the rules of professional conduct. And that's not only Fox's opinion, but it was also the ruling of the state's Superior Court, when they threw out eight charges Fina filed against Spanier, Schultz and Curley.

On Oct. 26, 2012, Fina questioned Baldwin in front of the grand jury, and "did elicit" what the disciplinary board described as "extensive . . .  attorney-client privileged communications between Baldwin and Curley, Schultz, and Spanier" as well as "confidential information" pertaining to the three former clients.

Fina's questioning of Baldwin was "calculated," the disciplinary board wrote, to solicit damaging information that would attack the credibility of Baldwin's three former clients. In the petition, the disciplinary board proceeded to list 73 examples from the grand jury transcript where Fina elicited confidential testimony from Baldwin that violated the attorney-client privilege, according to the petition filed by Paul J. Killion, chief disciplinary counsel, and Amelia C. Kittredge, disciplinary counsel.

That's 73 examples folks, of Fina bending the rules, and the judge going along with it. Without a defense lawyer in the secret chambers of the grand jury to say a word of protest on behalf of Baldwin's three former clients.

The actions of Fina and Baldwin in the grand jury were so egregious it prompted the state Superior Court to throw out a total of eight charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and conspiracy against Schultz, Curley and Spanier.

Baldwin has already been called to task for her alleged ethical lapses. At a two-hour disciplinary hearing on May 23 in Pittsburgh, Baldwin, a former state Supreme Court justice, contended she wasn't guilty of any misconduct. She testified that after she received grand jury subpoenas for Curley and Schultz, she allegedly told them, as well as Spanier, that she couldn't be their personal lawyer because she was representing Penn State. Baldwin also asserted that she told the Penn State officials their communication with her wouldn't remain confidential, and that they were free to get outside lawyers to represent them.

"Don't be nervous. Just tell the truth," Baldwin testified that she advised Curley.

Baldwin testified that both Curley and Schultz described a shower incident allegedly witnessed by whistleblower Mike McQueary back in 2001 involving Sandusky and a naked boy as "horseplay." Baldwin also contended that she asked the Penn State officials if they knew of any documents describing that incident that had been requested by a subpoena from the attorney general's office, and that her clients replied that they didn't know about any such documents.

Baldwin testified she felt "duped" when months later, a file kept by Schultz documenting the shower incident involving Sandusky was turned over to investigators.

In court records, Baldwin's former clients, however, tell a different story. They contend that Baldwin did not inform them of the risks of appearing before the grand jury, and misled them about the grand jury's mission. Schultz also stated that he told Baldwin about the file he kept on Sandusky.

Baldwin's former clients contend in affidavits that because of her inept representation, and outright deception about the grand jury's true mission, Baldwin transformed her clients into sitting ducks for Frank Fina.

"Ms. Baldwin informed me that the grand jury investigation focused on Jerry Sandusky, not on me or PSU, and that I was being called purely as a witness," Schultz wrote in an affidavit recently unsealed in Dauphin County. "Ms. Baldwin told me that neither I nor PSU were under investigation," Schultz wrote. "She told me that I could have outside counsel, if I wished, but at that point, seeing all the stories [of the Penn State officials] are consistent, she could represent me, Tim Curley and Joe Paterno as well."

Schultz said he told Baldwin he might have a file on Sandusky still in his office, and that it "might help refresh my memory" to review its contents. But Schultz said that Baldwin told him not to "look for or review any materials."

"Ms. Baldwin also told me that PSU and I were not targets of the investigation and that I would be treated as a witness," Schultz wrote. "There never was any discussion of the Fifth Amendment privilege or the risk of self-incrimination."

"I believed that Ms. Baldwin was representing me in connection with the grand jury proceedings and that she was looking out for my interests," Schulz wrote. "Based on her representations, I did not believe I needed a separate lawyer."

In his affidavit of Oct. 25, 2012, Schultz wrote that Baldwin only told him he needed a separate lawyer "approximately one week before the charges were filed against me."

Former Penn State University President Graham Spanier made similar, disturbing claims about the actions of Baldwin.

In a Jan. 16, 2013 affidavit, Spanier wrote that prior to his grand jury appearance, Baldwin "did not reveal that I had been subpoenaed, and I believed that I was going voluntarily. She did not inform me that Penn State and I were targets of the investigation. As far as I knew, the investigation focused solely on Sandusky."

When Spanier appeared before the grand jury in 2011, "I believed that Ms. Baldwin was representing me during and in connection with the grand jury proceedings and that she was acting in my best interests," Spanier wrote. " Although Ms. Baldwin mentioned that I was entitled to a separate attorney, she did not encourage me to retain one, or explain why I might want one. Based on her representations, I did not believe I needed a separate lawyer."

"On the day of my grand jury testimony, Ms. Baldwin accompanied my swearing in" before the judge, and "stated that she was representing me in connection with my testimony," Spanier wrote. "And I had no reason to think otherwise."

"Ms. Baldwin sat with me in the grand jury room," Spanier wrote. "I was asked by the OAG attorney whether I was represented by counsel. I responded that I was, and identified Ms. Baldwin. She did not say anything."

"Ms. Baldwin first told me that I should retain a separate attorney on Nov. 8, 2011, after Sandusky, Schultz and Curley had been indicted," Spanier wrote. "At no point did I waive my right to confidentiality in my communications with Mrs. Baldwin or otherwise waive attorney-client privilege."

Tomorrow, it will be Fina's turn to answer those charges of misconduct.

In a response to the disciplinary board's accusations, Fina's lawyers, Dennis C. McAndrews and Joseph E. McGettigan 3d, contend that Fina "has not violated any rule of conduct" and they request that the board dismiss the charges against him.

In attempting to extricate Fina from his ethical dilemma and blatant misconduct in flipping the pliable Baldwin, Fina's lawyers resorted to wrapping themselves up in the flag of righteousness in the Sandusky case. They did that by pointing out the jury verdict, the pretrial demonization of Sandusky by a hysterical media, and the actions of pliable judges in the case who kept giving the prosecutors nothing but green lights.

It's like the scene in Animal House, where Otter is confronted before a kangaroo student court with charges that he and his fellow frat brothers at Delta house "broke a few rules or took a few liberties with our female party guests."

"We did," Otter says, winking at Dean Wormer, an admission that Fina's lawyers won't be making tomorrow. Otter then asks the dean and the court if it's fair for them to hold "the whole fraternity system" accountable for the actions of "a few, sick, twisted individuals?"

And if they're going to indict the whole fraternity system, Otter asks, "isn't this an indictment of our educational systems in general," as well as "an indictment of our entire American society?"

"Well," an indignant Otter sniffs, "You can do whatever you want to us, but I for one am not going to stand here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America!" Then he and the Deltas march out of the courtroom humming the Star-Spangled Banner.

In their filing, Fina's lawyers describe their client as "instrumental in convicting the most notorious serial child molester in American history." Fina, according to his lawyers, was also "developing evidence that administrators at [Penn State] . . . failed to act in accordance with their legal, professional and/or ethical responsibilities in taking steps to prevent future harm to the children of this Commonwealth by that predator."


The lawyers assert that Fina did nothing improper before the grand jury. To do that, they quote the Louis Freeh report, which has some serious credibility problems, and Judge Feudale, the grand jury judge subsequently removed by the state Supreme Court amid allegations of misconduct and an alleged loss of objectivity.

In remarks quoted by Fina's lawyers, the discredited judge concluded that nothing went wrong in his courtroom after Fina plainly lied to him about what he was planning to do with Baldwin. And that after "a careful review of the testimony of attorney Baldwin before the grand jury," Judge Feudale concluded that "Baldwin's testimony did not [in this court's review] violate any attorney-client or work product privilege."

Never mind those 73 damaging quotes contained in the court transcript.

Fina's defense, as laid out by his lawyers, seems pretty lame. According to our system of justice, every accused defendant, even a serial killer, deserves a lawyer in their corner who would at least tell them if they're the target of a grand jury investigation. Cynthia Baldwin flunked that basic test. And then she went out and sold her clients down the river, behind closed doors in the grand jury, and neglected to tell them about it.

And speaking of Frank Fina, why did he have to lie and cheat and break the rules during that secret grand jury proceeding, where he already had the judge on his side, and he held all the cards?

If his cause was so righteous, why did Frank Fina have to cheat to win?

4 comments:

  1. Frank the Rat. Co-author of the fraudulent presentation and the Janitor Hoax which tied Joe Paterno with an image of a little boy pinned against a wall. He had the janitor testify that he was petrified to report the abuse of a fictional child because of fear of Paterno and the culture of football (while the janitors were represented by the Teamsters Union, it was still his supervisor's responsibility to report this to campus police). Without this hoax, Paterno doesn't get dragged in. It might even fizzle in the media.

    Fina's conduct as Corbett's lieutenant in Bonus Gate and Computer Gate show that he thought he was above the law. He could do anything with impunity. He had his buddies in the judicial system in his pocket. He shared porn with state and federal officials to compromise them. He came up with the V 10 hoax and the V9 fraud.

    It would seem that fraudulent presentations, suborning perjury, and manufacturing fictional victims might also be a basis for misconduct, but it seems to be business as usual in PA.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great article. Too bad no other news outlets are reporting on this.

    Baldwin knew better. She was trying to save herself from charges. Fina sent a letter to Baldwin in Dec. 2011 threatening her with contempt or obstruction charges for noncompliance in producing subpoenaed materials.

    Freeh was in cahoots with Fina but the Freeh Report had harsh words for Baldwin.

    I think Baldwin committed perjury because her sworn affidavit to Freeh (Exhibit 6A) contradicts her grand jury testimony about the circumstances of the May 12, 2011 Trustees meeting.

    Another Fina failure apparently is that Spanier was never served with a subpoena. Fina apparently just contacted Baldwin, and trusted her to inform Spanier. Spanier says he was never told. Fina should have had the subpoena hand delivered to Spanier or phoned him about it to be sure he received it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Fina should have had the subpoena hand delivered to Spanier or phoned him about it to be sure he received it." I'll bet it's legal to deliver it to Spanier's attorney instead of directly to Spanier... just more evidence that everyone knew Baldwin was representing Spanier, Curley, and Shultz...

      Delete
    2. We know that Baldwin was not acting as Spanier's attorney until he was called to testify before the grand jury. Spanier maintains that he thought he had merely been asked to volunteer his testimony not that he was subpoenaed.

      If not hand delivered or read over the phone, a subpoena is typically sent by mail or email. It makes no sense why it would have been sent to Baldwin's university address rather than Spanier's address. The Penn State President has lived in the Schreyer House since 1905. It's easy to find the Penn State President's phone number, office address and email (president@psu.edu) online.

      Delete

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