Does being on trial yourself disqualify you from being a good attorney, or make you a better one?
A well-known criminal defense attorney, Beau Brindley, who was accused of coaching witnesses to perjure themselves and obstructing justice by filing misleading court documents, has been found not guilty by the federal judge trying the case. After a 2-week bench trial, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber also found Brindley's law partner not guilty of all counts.
In this closely watched court case, the verdict came as a surprise, since the great majority of criminal defendants who are tried in this federal court either plead guilty or are convicted at trial. Brindley himself declared his victory "a testament to criminal defendants...that you can fight the case... and, if you do, justice will be served." He also asserted that his case "validates aggressive defense" and that going through the process of being a defendant has given him a "clearer perspective on what criminal defendants go through."
The trial came a year after the FBI raided Brindley's law office. During the raid, they carted away email records, computer drives and handwritten notes. The most incriminating pieces of evidence found were the lengthy question-and- answer "scripts" for Brindley's clients which contained a great many falsehoods. The attorney allegedly had his clients memorize such scripts before giving trial testimony. In the end, however, the judge found that prosecutors failed to prove that Brindley knew his clients were lying when he put them on the stand. He agreed with Brindley's attorneys that it is common practice to provide clients with "exhaustive preparation."
The judge further noted that the testimony of Brindley's former clients, most of whom are currently serving lengthy prison sentences, had records of lying "at least once under oath." In addition, some clients were offered tremendous breaks in their sentences in exchange for testifying against Brindley.
In spite of the not guilty verdict, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Chmelar, the prosecutor said, in his closing remarks that Brindley's behavior showed "a startling disregard for the law."