Just last week, Loretta Lynch assured the Senators of the Judiciary Committee that she would be different from Eric Holder. She said she would make a “full and fair review of every matter” brought before her.
Loretta Lynch smiled warmly at the Senators. Deftly parrying the hard questions, she pledged to be independent and follow the rule of law. Yet while she convincingly promised to “seek Justice—not convictions,” an innocent father of three languished in his sixth year of prison as a result of egregious injustice at the hands of prosecutors from her district and a complete system breakdown.
We have learned that she knows about and has refused to acknowledge—much less address—these wrongs. Indeed, at least two former United States Attorneys can attest to this extraordinary injustice and her refusal to resolve it. She would not respond to them herself, and her subordinates see nothing wrong with the prosecution or its result.
This case of prosecutorial misconduct, abuse of power, and judicial complicity was brought to me by a friend. It illustrates everything that can and does go wrong in our criminal justice system: politically motivated prosecutions; targeting of individuals; over-criminalization (making a crime out of business judgment, innocent mistakes, or less); abusive and headline-grabbing prosecutors gone wild; negligent, complicit or flat-out biased judges. The results aren’t pretty: a family devastated, lives ruined, and the needless, long-term imprisonment of someone who was and still should be a productive, tax-paying member of our society.
Rabid prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York—now Ms. Lynch’s office—brought this case as part of the massive effort of the Corporate Fraud Task Force formed by the Department of Justice in July 2002. That Task Force racked up 1300 convictions of businessmen in six years, appeasing the outrage after the implosion of Enron. Like the Enron Task Force, they were given extraordinary resources, and their mission was to target high-profile individuals and companies. The highest value targets had CEO or CFO behind their names.
Bradley Stinn was the Chief Executive Officer of Friedman’s Jewelers. Brad is the father of three children. He was their athletic coach, a devoted husband, and well-respected citizen. He has been in federal prison for six years now on a trumped-up case built on smoke and tied with baling wire by prosecutors known for their abusive, roughshod tactics. Prosecutors were determined to extract the pound of flesh from Bradley Stinn—and they’ve done more than that. His wife and three children have been devastated.
Mr. Stinn did not take a dime from anyone, and he didn’t sell a share of his stock. The charges of wire fraud, securities fraud, and mail fraud, which require theft of money or property, were based on him receiving his salary and a bonus—knowingly paid to him by the company. He did not steal those—and the statutes don’t criminalize people’s salaries and bonuses. If they did, everyone is a criminal.
Not only did Mr. Stinn not steal anything, he lost heavily when Friedman Jewelers’ stock eventually went down. Ironically, he was required to pay “restitution” in excess of $4 million, although he took nothing from anyone. The Stinns were forced to sell their home, and their savings were wiped out. His wife and three children now live with relatives and face every day without the husband and father they love.
Indicted by United States Attorney Benton Campbell, a member of the notorious Enron Task Force cabal about which I have written at length, Assistant United States Attorneys Seth Levine and then Scott Klugman used every trick in their dirty books. They threatened to prosecute witnesses who would have testified in defense of Brad Stinn. The prosecutors yelled, screamed, and intimidated people at will. They refused to provide documents that were favorable to the defense—with rare exceptions, which they grudgingly produced and heavily redacted.
It appears that the government’s case was a sham—enabled by a federal judge who, despite her generally good reputation, in this case seemed biased at best. As in the prosecutions of Senator Ted Stevens and the Merrill defendants in my book Licensed to Lie, it was the prosecutors who were running a fraud. And as in the Merrill case, the judge appears to have been running a railroad, and the Second Circuit panel just rode the train.
Peeved with the defense overall, Judge Nina Gershon sentenced Bradley Stinn to twelve years in prison, while those who admitted committing multiple real frauds, lying, cheating and stealing, walked out of the courtroom with sentences of probation. Justice for all?
Two former United States Attorneys wrote Ms. Lynch specifically. One of them had been her supervisor. Rather than examine the case for misconduct, order the release of the files, agree to vacate or reduce the twelve-year sentence, or take any other investigative or corrective action, Ms. Lynch did not even reply.
At least three outstanding lawyers, two of whom are former United States Attorneys, repeatedly wrote the various United States Attorneys including Ms. Lynch, the Solicitor General, Attorney General Holder, and the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility, pleading for review of the outrageous conduct, suppression of evidence believed favorable to the defense, and the barbaric sentence imposed in this case.
Two former United States Attorneys wrote Ms. Lynch specifically. One of them had been her supervisor. Rather than examine the case for misconduct, order the release of the files, agree to support vacating or reducing the twelve-year sentence, or take any other investigative or corrective action, Ms. Lynch did not even reply.
Neither did Attorney General Holder, and the Department’s “Office of Professional Responsibility” refused to investigate because no judge had found any misconduct. (Wait for Parts II and III of this series).
As a “favor” to one of the former United States Attorneys, Ms. Lynch’s subordinates, prosecutors James McGovern, Marshall Miller, and Ilene Jaroslaw, did speak by telephone with him. They were adamant that nothing was wrong in this prosecution, and they shifted the burden to the defense to “come up with something to chew on.”
That’s difficult to do when even the SEC, which decided not to file so much as a civil complaint against Brad Stinn, refuses to release the documents that caused it to decline any case against him. And of course, Ms. Lynch’s office still refuses to release notes, grand jury testimony, and unredacted information of inconsistent statements by their “cooperating” witnesses—the admitted liars, thieves, and fraudsters to whom they gave “get out of jail free cards.” The prosecutors had even instructed agents not to take notes of “cooperators’” statements.
According to well-respected attorneys, it is common knowledge that the Eastern District of New York engages in such abusive and wrongful tactics. In fact, many of the prosecutors there are proud of it. If a criminal “cooperates” in the Eastern District of New York—which means saying what the prosecutors want said—then the cooperator gets his “get out of jail free” card.
So as Ms. Lynch awaits her confirmation as our new Attorney General, Brad Stinn is helping other inmates get their GED in prison. He faces an additional six years for receiving his agreed compensation. His wife and his children are forced to bear the unbearable pain of his absence from their daily lives and his unjust imprisonment.
The mob mentality of Eastern District of New York is already running the Department of Justice. If confirmed as Attorney General, Ms. Lynch will join a cabal of former Eastern District of New York prosecutors—her colleagues who proudly used these abusive tactics. She goes way back with them. Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder have stacked the Department hierarchy with prosecutors known as “terrors”—including Leslie Caldwell, head of the criminal division, and Andrew Weissmann, now chief of the powerful fraud section—gearing up for War on Wall Street (and Main Street) Part II.
Abusive and wrongful prosecutions cut across party, political, and socio-economic lines. Innocent people are imprisoned while families are destroyed. The Innocence Project and other good lawyers are freeing people weekly who have lost the better part of their lives in prison for crimes they did not commit. It is far too hard to correct these injustices.
The notion that everyone in prison deserves to be there has taken a beating lately. The subject of the megahit podcast Serial, Adnan Syed, was just granted an appeal after 15 years in prison. And the New York Times recently published a piece entitled “The dollar value of a stolen life” a story arising from New York’s recent payment of $17 million dollars to three men who spent a combined 60 years in prison—wrongly convicted by Ms. Lynch’s now infamous counterpart in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.
There is no similar remedy against federal prosecutors yet. Bradley Stinn can’t even get the evidence and grand jury transcripts that will likely exonerate him. What will it take? Who will stop this?
Senators, take note.
If Ms. Lynch meant what she said in her confirmation hearings, she should produce all of the Stinn files now—including the grand jury transcripts and the documents from the SEC—and agree to Brad Stinn’s immediate release from prison. Perhaps the Senators will demand the documents.
It’s time to let Justice roll . . . like a mighty stream.
Sidney Powell worked in the Department of Justice for 10 years and was lead counsel in more than 500 federal appeals. She served nine U.S. Attorneys from both political parties and is the author of Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice.