• April 7, 2017

    Prosecutor Pleads Guilty To Conducting Illegal Wiretaps In Bizarre Love Triangle

    Every now and then I read something that makes my head shake. This is one of them. Here, a (now former) prosecutor, Tara Lenich, formerly of the Brooklyn DA’s Office, who took an oath to uphold the Constitution, ran illegal wiretaps so she could spy on the other two parts of her bizarre love triangle, another prosecutor and a detective. Fortunately, she was caught, and this week she pleaded guilty to the above in Brooklyn federal court. Photo Credit: New York Law Journal Reading about this reminds me of Lord Acton’s famous quotation which has never rung truer: “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In our society, there are no actors closer to absolute power than prosecutors. While prosecutors are part of the executive branch of government, there are few checks on their power—in fact, there are more on the president himself. This prosecutor forged a judge’s signature because she couldn’t compel the phone company to do the wiretap without such a signature because that is what’s required by Title III. Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, also known as the “Wiretap Act”: 1) prohibits the unauthorized, nonconsensual interception of “wire, oral, or electronic communications” by government agencies as well as private parties; 2) establishes procedures for obtaining warrants to authorize wiretapping by government officials; and 3) regulates the disclosure and use of authorized intercepted communications by investigative and law enforcement officers. According to the DOJ, “Congress passed Title III in response to congressional investigations and published studies that found extensive wiretapping had been conducted by government agencies and private individuals without the consent of the parties or legal sanction. Congress found that the contents of these tapped conversations and the evidence derived from them were being used by government and private parties as evidence in court and administrative proceedings.” Title III was enacted to prevent wiretap above and misuse by government officials. Here, this prosecutor circumvented Title III and used her absolute power to conduct illegal wiretaps. She is a disgrace to the criminal justice system, an insult to all ethical prosecutors, and her actions further erode trust in our system of government. I hope her time in prison will serve as a deterrent to other prosecutors who choose to play fast and loose with the 4th Amendment.

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  • March 20, 2017

    Preet Bharara’s Spectacular Firing

    (Photo: Getty Images) VINOO VARGHESE is a criminal defense attorney and a former prosecutor who defended multiple high-profile cases against Preet Bharara. Arrogant. For once, I’m not referring to our 45th President, but instead to Preet Bharara, the man referred to as the “Sheriff of Wall Street” and the “Showman Prosecutor.” He made a spectacle out of the fact that he was fired—though it is normal for a new president to fire sitting US Attorneys. President Clinton did this, so did President (W.) Bush, and so did President Obama. To many, Bharara is a hero for not resigning and instead demanding to be fired. Bharara isn’t a hero, unlike Sally Yates, who President Trump fired because she refused to follow his patently unconstitutional travel ban. Bharara’s demand to be fired while everyone else submitted their resignations was classic Bharara—the Showman. The media classified Bharara’s firing as another example of this President’s awful judgment (which there are plenty)—but this was just normal politics. The US Attorney is an “at-will” job—serving at the will of the sitting president. Here, even if President-Elect Trump had asked him to stay on—President Trump’s will changed—too bad for Bharara but good for the public. Bharara seemed to forget that he worked at-will or simply chose to ignore it since he believed himself bigger than the position he held for nine years. Many of us who believe in criminal justice will not miss Bharara. While he was a media darling, to others, like me, who defended those he chose to go after, he was just a bully. He presided over an office with unlimited resources that could pick and choose his targets with impunity. His press conferences were spectacles, by which he polluted jury pools and created hostile atmospheres, making it nearly impossible for anyone accused to receive a fair trial. He was indeed a Showman. For example, in one such press conference, Bharara, the Showman, claimed that a former client of mine, Rengan Rajaratnam, who he accused of insider trading, shared the same DNA for criminality as his previously convicted brother, Raj Rajaratnam. Bharara had no problem claiming Rengan was predisposed to committing criminal acts, but where was Bharara’s apology to Rengan when a jury found him not guilty of all charges? Don’t hold your breath—it didn’t come. Arrogant. Later, Bharara called Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, who presided over Rengan’s acquittal, “‘the worst federal judge’ he’d ever encountered.” Arrogant. Sore loser. Another federal judge, Richard Sullivan, questioned whether one of Bharara’s bombastic press conferences served any meaningful law enforcement purpose. In this one, Bharara disparaged another former client of mine, NYC Councilman Dan Halloran. Judge Sullivan said Bharara’s comments announcing Dan’s arrest “sound[ed] like the theme from Mighty Mouse.” “This seems to be designed for tabloid consumption,” Judge Sullivan said, adding, “there should be a question asked that is that appropriate at the preconviction stage.” The judge harkened back to his days as an assistant U.S. attorney, saying there was a time when prosecutors would just state what the charges were and not editorialize on the matter. Bharara had called Dan the “quarterback” of a “smorgasbord […]

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  • December 21, 2016

    A Christmas Story: Our American Client Freed From Brazilian Prison

    Happy Holidays! We are thrilled to announce that we were able to help free our client — just in time for Christmas and the New Year! After serving over three brutal years in prison, mostly in Brazil awaiting extradition to the United States, we were able to show a Manhattan federal judge why she should give him time served. Our client, an American citizen, had been living and working in Brazil for some time with his wife. While there, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York obtained through the State Department an extradition warrant for him to face financial crimes charges. While awaiting extradition, the Brazilian federal police incarcerated him, and the Brazilian court system held him for nearly three years. Our client wasn’t fighting extradition, but instead was left in diplomatic limbo as the American government squabbled with the Brazilian government over the extradition of our client. Vinoo Varghese, our principal, visited our client at the São Paulo Polícia Federal Jail and met with him to prepare for his defense in New York federal court. While waiting to be extradited, our client endured horrifying living conditions such as freezing temperatures in his cell, solitary confinement 23/24 hours a day, spoiled food, and fierce intimidation by both prison staff and gangs. He suffered severe insomnia, drastic weight loss and lived in constant fear of death. Weekly visits from his loving wife were his only solace. Our client returned to the United States a shell of his previous self, emaciated, and timid. Yet, the battle wasn’t over. He still faced up to another 17 years in jail, but we believed that he shouldn’t be incarcerated another day. So, we put together a sentencing mitigation package that the federal prosecutor said was the best he had ever seen. This package contained letters from numerous friends, colleagues, family members, and others including a Naval Officer, who came and spoke on our client’s behalf at the sentencing hearing. We also submitted reports from Human Rights Watchand The Economist about the deplorable conditions of Brazilian prisons. We were able to convince the judge that our client had suffered enough and she ordered him released and sentenced him to time served. A short while later, he was finally reunited with his wife, just in time for Christmas and the New Year. We are elated that our client is now able to resume his life with his wife as a free man. Our client embracing his wife as a newly freed man! Jailhouse in São Paulo, Brazil where Vinoo visited our client From the Team, Vinoo Varghese Tina McDonald Matthew De La Torre Katie Lanphere Giselle Muñoz

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  • November 1, 2016

    The Post Consults Vinoo Varghese About Governor Chris Christie & Bridgegate

    The New York Post consulted our principal, Vinoo Varghese, as a legal expert concerning the allegations against Governor Chris Christie in the infamous Bridgegate scandal and trial. David Wildstein, a former official in Governor Christie’s administration, testified that the Governor knew that the George Washington Bridge (GWB) was closed in retaliation against the Fort Lee, NJ mayor for not endorsing him in his gubernatorial reelection campaign. Wildstein further testified that when told of the GWB closure at the 9/11 Ground Zero Memorial in Manhattan, Governor Christie laughed in response. Amidst the buzz of Wildstein’s testimony, many are beginning to wonder whether the Governor will face charges himself. Vinoo advised the Post about the legal standard for conspiracy and explained why prosecutors may be hesitant to charge Governor Christie. Here’s the specific quote: Legal experts told The Post that Wildstein’s testimony may prompt the public to ask why Christie wasn’t charged. But “it may be [prosecutors] have nothing other than this guy’s testimony,” said Manhattan lawyer Vinoo Varghese, referring to Wildstein. “For all we know, [Christie] may have thought it was a joke.”

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