• June 1, 2017

    A Face of Evil

    Massachusetts forensic chemist, Annie Dookhan, played God to advance her career.  As she sat in her lab and deliberately mishandled drug samples, she determined the fate of over twenty thousand lives.  Dookhan carelessly and selfishly claimed to be “the best chemist on staff,” leaving little regard for the destruction she left in her wake.  Not only did she send innocent men and women to jail by tainting evidence—a gross injustice for which the Boston DA’s offices refuse to take responsibility—but, she also cost taxpayers millions of dollars to mop up the shattered pieces of the criminal justice system that she broke. Dookhan pleaded guilty to 27 counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and tampering with evidence.  She marked tests positive without properly testing them, mixed samples to create positive tests, and forged signatures to cover up inconsistent results.  Dookhan was known as Superwoman by her colleagues, yet that nickname couldn’t be further from what she turned out to be.  In the comics, Superwoman saved lives, Dookhan, however, destroyed the lives of over twenty thousand people. Shockingly, Dookhan was sentenced to only 3 years in prison, a sentence shorter than many sentences issued to the innocent people that were wrongfully convicted due to her complete neglect for human life and lack of respect for the criminal justice system.  Dookhan should have been punished with a sentence proportionate to the crimes she committed, yet she wasn’t. Although more than 20,000 cases, around 95%, of the 24,000 tainted by Dookhan have been dismissed, the Boston DA’s offices continue to defend the original convictions.  As quoted in The New York Times, a spokesman for one of the Boston DAs, Daniel Conley, claimed that these convictions were not wrongful, but were rather “cases that could be appealed on procedural grounds.” If the ACLU had not stepped in and filed a lawsuit, Bridgeman v. DA of Suffolk County, most of the “Dookhan defendants” wouldn’t have filed for post-conviction relief.  Before the suit, less than 1,200 of these defendants had filed for such relief. In its defense of this suit, the DA proclaimed that because most of the Dookhan defendants’ convictions resulted from guilty pleas, they were surely guilty of something and, therefore, to dismiss such a high volume of cases would lead to “chaos.”  The DA demonstrated a cavalier indifference to due process and insulted our criminal justice system, which is predicated on innocent until proven guilty.  The “chaos” of this situation does not stem from the rightful dismissal of these 20,000 cases, but is due instead to the deleterious effect that Dookhan’s ego had on the lives of these 20,000 wrongfully convicted individuals. The government, which has the power to strip people of their liberty, must be held to the highest standard of integrity.  Those who take advantage of their position should be punished to the degree of the damage they imposed.  Superwoman Dookhan, playing God, ruined 20,000 lives and should have been punished more severely and a contrite attitude by the DA would go a long way toward repairing the trust between the public and law enforcement.

    Continue reading
  • May 23, 2017

    Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, and the Endangered Species Known as Men

    Happy May!   With the recent firing of Bill O’Reilly, the sordid tales of Bill Cosby and the “punishment” of the Stanford swimmer, the media has drawn massive attention to those accused of sexual misconduct and painted a terrible picture of these men, perhaps justifiably.  We here at Varghese & Associates wish, however, to highlight the plight of the many men whose lives have been devastated by false allegations of sexual misconduct.  Unless they have us defending them, these men are at risk of becoming an endangered species.  We highlight the problems men face by telling you about how we recently prevented the arrest of a client accused of sexual assault who we shall call “John.”  As you read this, remember that John could be your son, your brother, or your friend.     John is a successful, single man in his early 30’s.  John met a young woman about his age through his participation in a ballroom dancing league here in the City and they began a three-night sexual relationship in December.  Despite never calling her his “girlfriend,” the woman began texting John at all hours of the night.  One night, she showed up at his apartment unannounced at 3 am. John shared the apartment with two female roommates. After the woman woke everyone up by repeatedly ringing the bell, John’s roommates told her to leave John alone or they would call the police.  After that episode, he made it clear to the woman that he never wanted to see her again.   Despite ending their “relationship,” the woman continued to text him telling John of her unyielding affection for him.  When they would run into each other at ballroom dancing events, she made it extremely uncomfortable for him.  At one event, she bumped into him, spilling wine all over his shirt.  At another one, she followed John into the men’s room screaming at him over how he had broken her heart. At a third, when John wanted to leave after seeing her, she followed him for several blocks until he eluded her by running into a subway station. Finally, John, despite loving ballroom dancing, stopped attending these events.   The woman then took to disparaging him on Facebook, including on their group ballroom dancing page.  On her personal Facebook page, she started tagging John and linking him to articles about rape, including a New York Times article called “When a Rapist’s Weapon is a Drug.”   After he didn’t respond, she sought a restraining order in New York County Family Court against him.  In her petition, she claimed that John had raped her multiple times and listed dates of these alleged rapes.  On Facebook, she posted pictures of her inside the Family Court along with a photo of her petition.   You may ask why Family Court?  Several years ago, New York State legislators expanded the jurisdiction of the Family Court to allow those who had been in an “intimate relationship” to file for orders of protection aka restraining orders. Despite our client’s innocence, his reputation suffered due to her Facebook posts, and her public berating of him at the ballroom […]

    Continue reading
  • 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.

    Continue reading
  • 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 […]

    Continue reading