The Work

August 29, 2008 2:32 PM

Spate of High-Profile Sentencings Scheduled for Summer's End

Posted by Brian Baxter

A summer that began with Melvyn Weiss being sentenced to 30 months in prison on conspiracy charges is set to close with several other big-name defendants set for sentencing during the first week of September.

Weiss, a cofounding partner of the plaintiffs firm formerly known as Milberg Weiss, reported to a minimum security federal prison in Morgantown, W.V., last week. He might soon be joined behind bars by the likes of Jack Abramoff, Antoin "Tony" Rezko, and L. Dennis Kozlowski, who have their own long line of lawyers following them to court.

Abramoff, a former Washington, D.C., lobbyist currently serving a five year sentence on federal fraud and corruption charges stemming from his stake in a fleet of Florida casino boats, is returning to court in Washington, D.C., on September 4 for a sentencing hearing before U.S. district court judge Ellen Huvelle in a parallel tax evasion and public corruption case.

Led by McDermott Will & Emery litigation partner Abbe Lowell--who defended former ImClone CEO Sam Waksal on insider trading charges--Abramoff's lawyers are requesting reductions in any prison time their client would serve based on his level of cooperation with law enforcement officials.

"There is a pending motion [before U.S. district court judge Paul Huck] to reduce his sentence in the Florida case as well," Lowell says. "In Florida the government filed a motion to reduce his sentence and in D.C. they filed their sentencing memo," he adds. "And in Florida we filed a motion to reduce [Abramoff's] sentence, and in D.C. we filed our sentencing motion."

According to court documents in both cases, prosecutors have been impressed with Abramoff's cooperation. In the government's sentencing memo to Judge Huvelle in the tax evasion case, prosecutors wrote that while "Abramoff's misconduct is an extremely serious matter," his cooperation "exposed significant misconduct by others...and revealed to law enforcement officials...the manner and means used by government officials to game the system for private advantage in violation of criminal, regulatory, and ethical laws and rules."

Tony Rezko, the Chicago-based real estate developer and political fundraiser convicted on 16 counts of corruption on June 4, doesn't have that kind of government support to fall back on at his sentencing hearing. Rezko was set to appear before U.S. district court judge Amy St. Eve on September 3 for sentencing before his lawyers--led by Joseph Duffy, a founding partner of Chicago's Stetler & Duffy--successfully petitioned St. Eve for a postponement. A re-sentencing hearing in the case, which was prosecuted by Justice Department star Patrick Fitzgerald, has been rescheduled for October 28. (Duffy did not return a call requesting comment.)

Lastly, Dennis Kozlowski's legal fight in state court in New York continues. The former CEO of Tyco International is currently serving an 8-24 year sentence at an upstate New York prison after being convicted in June 2005 on 22 counts of grand larceny for misappropriating over $400 million in Tyco funds. State Supreme Court Judge Michael Obus also ordered Kozlowski to pay $97 million in restitution and a $70 million fine.

The Koz lost his preliminary appeal before the state's Manhattan-based Appellate Division, First Department, in November 2007. Now he gets another chance before New York's Court of Appeals in Albany, where former federal judge John Martin, a founding partner of New York's Martin & Obermaier and formerly of counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton, will represent him. Martin, who did not return a call seeking comment, is expected to argue that everything the former CEO received was compensation documented by Tyco's official books and records. (The New York Court of Appeals will offer a webcast of the appeal by Kozlowski and Tyco's former CFO Mark Swartz, currently serving a prison sentence nearly identical to that of his former boss.)

Nathaniel Marmur, a partner at New York litigation boutique Stillman, Friedman & Shechtman, is handling appellate arguments for Swartz. The firm, led by name partner Charles Stillman, represented Swartz at trial. Kozlowski's trial counsel were New York solo practitioner Stephen Kaufman and Bryan Cave litigation partners James DeVita and Austin Campriello.

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Kozlowski's story includes a lesson about the Age of Information. If he was better at making and keeping electronic records, he might not have been convicted. --Ben

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