Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Trials and more

By Margot Moss 

The Operation Varsity Blues' Trial Begins

The trial of John Wilson and Gamal Abdelaziz began Monday.  The 2 men are accused of paying bribes to coaches and officials to have their children admitted to elite colleges.

The government claims that Wilson and Abdelaziz worked with fraud leader Rick Singer to portray the kids as athletic recruits when they weren't actually talented enough to compete in college athletics.  In her opening statement, the prosecutor offered, "This is not a case about wealthy people donating money to universities with the hope that their children get preferential treatment in the admissions process."  Instead, she contended that the case was about lies:  "Lies to obtain admissions spots that were bought and paid for."  As proof of these claims, the government plans to admit recordings of conversations Singer made with the parents.

The defense contends that donations is exactly what this case is about - or at least what the parents thought was happening but for Rick Singer conning them.  Wilson's attorney stated in Opening, "Rick Singer is one of the great con men of our time."  John Wilson "trusted a con man who stole his money.  That con man knows how to play people better than anybody in this courtroom."  The attorney said that the parents did not know that Singer was creating fake athletic profiles for the children applying to the schools and pocketing part of their donation money for himself.

Interestingly, the government does not plan to call Singer as a witness.  Turns out, Singer made notes at the times of the recordings with parents that the agents pressured him and "continue to ask me to tell a fib and not restate what I told my clients as to where [their] money was going - to the program not the coach and that it was a donation, and they want it to be a payment."  

So interesting.

Fifty seven people, including celebrities, business people, athletic coaches, proctors, and administrators, have been charged in the case since March 2019.  Forty six of them have pleaded guilty, and one parent was pardoned by former president Trump.  Wilson and Abdelaziz are the first to go to trial.

Meanwhile, another trial has ended early.

Arizona Federal Judge Declared a Mistrial in the Backpage Case

From Law 360:

An Arizona federal judge on Tuesday called an early mistrial in a pimping case against former executives and employees of, who argued that prosecutors had poisoned the jury with irrelevant stories of human trafficking.

U.S. District Judge Susan M. Brnovich ordered the do-over eight days into a trial that had lasted more than two months, dealing a win to defendants who sparred with the government for three years over admissibility of evidence in the sprawling case. Prosecutors are seeking to prove that former Backpage executives Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin and a half-dozen underlings facilitated prostitution with adult ads on the now-defunct classifieds site.

The Defense's scathing motion for Mistrial begins:

The government's opening argument was a parade of horribles about human trafficking destroying the lives of trafficked women and children, with barely any mention of charged counts and zero linkage of any Defendant to any charged count.  The opening offended the law, ignored indisputable facts, and consisted of inflammatory, unproven, and unprovable assertions that fail in any event to address what the government must prove to convict any defendant.

In the end, the judge agreed.

... and last, but not least ...

The Federal Bar Association Annual Meeting & Convention is Next Week!

Yaniv Adar, President of the South Florida Chapter of the FBA, and many others have been working extremely hard to put together what I'm sure will be a wonderful and informative event next week.  They've put together a great program, including local SDFL judges and speakers from across the country.   Register here to attend.  



Rumpole said...

David and Margot always say- YOU CANNOT WIN A PLEA!
My favourite slogan which I often appropriate for my own purposes

Anonymous said...

"U.S. District Judge Susan M. Brnovich ordered the do-over eight days into a trial that had lasted more than two months"
Law 360 doing their thing.

Anonymous said...

Byrne/Moss/Caruso can stay. The rest must go. Bring DOM Back. PLEASE.

Anonymous said...

Only Margot should stay. BRING DOM BACK!