Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sad day

Typically I try to blog objectively and just report what is occurring in our District.

Today I can't do that because what happened this morning in magistrate court should not have happened.

Ben Kuehne, one of the pillars of this community, was indicted on money laundering charges. (read indictment here)

The government's theory of prosecution is outrageous. According to Jay Weaver's article:

Justice Department officials allege that Kuehne broke the law in 2002-03 when he vouched for millions paid by one-time MedellĂ­n drug lord Fabio Ochoa Vasquez to his high-profile trial attorney, Roy Black.
Kuehne's research gave Black the confidence -- in the form of legal opinion letters -- to accept payments totaling $3.7 million in fees and $1.3 million in expenses from Ochoa, according to several sources. Kuehne earned a portion of the expense payments -- $220,000 to $260,000 -- from Black for vetting Ochoa's payments.


Federal prosecutors face a formidable challenge in proving the case against Kuehne. They will have to prove that Kuehne knew Ochoa's money came from the sale of family assets to drug-trafficking associates...

This means that Ben had to have knowingly and willfully lied to Roy when telling him that the fee was okay. But what motive would Ben have for doing this? The money certainly wasn't enough to risk all of this. And Ben Kuehne of all people wouldn't have done these things for a million dollars. He's as ethical a person and lawyer as I know. I'll comment a lot more on the charges once I've had a chance to digest the indictment which was unsealed this morning in mag court.

We all know the real reason for this prosecution -- to discourage lawyers from taking these kinds of cases.

I went to court to support Ben. Half of the legal community was there to show their support. (He was released on a $250,000 personal surety bond.) Watching this unfold really stuck in my gut. I am still in disbelief. I actually had a case in the past with the lead prosecutor from DOJ. I went up to him to say hello and he exclaimed without prompting: "This is a wonderful day for the government." The comment was unnecessary and it sickened me.

I walked away from him thinking just the opposite. This is a terrible day for our country. Ben will be acquitted. But at what cost to him? And our justice system? Now, more than ever, it's critical to fight for our Constitution and our justice system.

In court, Ben commented to Magistrate Judge Brown: "since I am completely innocent of these charges, I am entering a plea of not guilty.'' He is represented by John Nields and Jane Moscowitz.

A bit of good news -- the case was assigned to Judge Marcia Cooke. As I have commented before, she is as fair and just.

UPDATED -- here's a DBR story about the case.


South Florida Lawyers said...

I couldn't agree more. I don't know John, but Jane is a committed and talented attorney and I too am confident that Ben will be fully acquitted.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you David, this is a sad day for our country.
I personally blame this admistration, where everything is now possible and Justice is not even a concept, just a thing of the past.
It is pretty sure he is innocent. Why will he risks his reputation for so little money ? But even when he will be declared innocent, he will have suffered many bad consequences.
This is truly irresponsible from the Government, after a very costly and inefficient war agaisnt drug that just brings more money to the cartels. Shame.
Best regards.
FD @ Condo Hotels South Beach

Anonymous said...

Mr. M,
It hurts me to see you upset like this. I know that you always speak the truth. I will keep Mr. Kuehne in my prayers. I know he is a good man if he is a friend of yours. Yes, I read your blogs! I have so much respect for you that I feel that I must show my support in any way that I can. Through personal experience, I have learned that the government has no care or concern about how they railroad people and ruin their lives. Best regards to you and your colleague.

Rumpole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rumpole said...

Ben has great counsel and could not have had a better Judge assigned to the case. Moreno would have been just as good but may have to had recuse himself.

This is clearly a strike at lawyers taking these cases, which is ridiculous because lets face it- how many multi-million dollar fees are coming out of colmbia these days anyway? Justice will be done and we need to carry Ben on our shoulders while this travesty unfolds because he would have been the first in line to help any one of us.

Anonymous said...

Can I now criticize the US Atty for allowing this to happen. Or, is he going to argue that main Justice is his buffer for involvement in this travesty?

Anonymous said...

Read the indictment people. If the facts are as alleged, Kuehne is a money launderer.

Anonymous said...

Well mr or mrs US Atty/3:18. Can you please post a link to the indictment?

Anonymous said...


The indictment is linked to David's post.

Anonymous said...

David you lower yourself to make this personal. I am not one of the lawyers (1/2 of all, per you) that mentored under Ben, but still find the charge surprising and unfortunate. However, the government is entitled to its day in court and as noted by another comment, if the facts alleged are proven he is indeed guilty. (You better study 1956 and 1957 case law more before you give legal opinions based on being mentored by Ben). Important to note as distasteful as it may be - if you receive money before you do the due diligence, you can be guilty of 1957 if you should have known better. Good luck Ben.

Anonymous said...

I hope Abe does not mind, but here is a comment he posted on the State Blog. For those of you who don't know Abe, I would venture to say he is THE most respected ASA. That would be from ASAs and from the defense bar:

Anonymous Abe Laeser said...

I want to stand up for Ben Kuehne.

I have been able to call him a friend, and freely rely on his word without hesitation. He and Lynn have led scrupulously moral and decent lives.

I, for one, refuse to believe that he would intentionally do the wrongs of which he is now accused.

Ben, if you want someone from the 'other side' to speak put for you - at any time - just get word to me, and I will stand, shoulder to shoulder, with you.

I call upon those on both 'sides' of the aisle to also [using their names] to let Ben know that we are with him - in his battle against these charges.

I can only pray that the personal impact and the harm to his reputation with gracefully fade away, as well.

You are in my thoughts, my friend.

The Peace Option said...

As demonstrated in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, one way to expedite authoritarianism and the oppression of the citizenry is to “Kill All the Lawyers”.

Believing that Ben Kuehne could have engaged in the crimes alleged is akin to believing your mother could engage in prostitution. On the other hand, the Bush Administration’s politicization of the Department of Justice and its politically-motivated pursuits are well-documented facts (remember the notorious U.S. Attorney firing scandal?). That this Administration, which has engaged in the widespread commission of federal crimes during its tenure (warrantless wiretapping, authorizing torture, political vetting of DOJ applicants, e.g.), would target someone of Ben’s character and professionalism, is verification of its lack of shame and dangerous and vile nature. Let’s not forget that this indictment was being finalized and filed under seal in the last days of Alberto Gonzales’ reign of terror.

As someone who knows Ben and has worked closely with him in the past, I can honestly say that Ben Kuehne is the MOST INTELLIGENT, METICULOUS, THOROUGH, HARDWORKING, GRACIOUS, and ETHICAL ATTORNEY. Period. Ben Kuehne is incapable of violating ethical standards or the law. He will be proven innocent.