Legal Speaks Home Debbie Hines Bio Blog TV Clips Practice Areas Res Ipsa Loquitur Links Contact
Blog Home

Archive for May, 2012

It’s All Over for John Edwards Except the Verdict

Friday, May 18th, 2012

John Edwards- Photo NY Daily News

The jury in the John Edwards case began its deliberations on Friday and left for the weekend with no verdict.  They asked to see the checks that Bunny Mellon wrote.  The jury of 5 African Americans and 6 whites with one person’s race unknown will decide his fate. Seven are men and 5 are women.  A jury is like what Forest Gump called a “box of chocolates”.   You never know what you will get.  Right about now, one has to wonder if Edwards is thinking about the deal that he turned down.  He knew what he would get with the plea offer.

Going back in time before the indictment, the government offered Edwards a plea to a misdemeanor with 6 months in jail and the ability to keep his law license.  He now faces up to 30 years in jail and over a $1 million fine for the 6 felonies he faces..  Hindsight is always 20-20. At that point in time, Edwards turned down the plea because it did not allow his attorneys to request a lower sentence than 6 months. And Edwards did not want to be away from his children. But a jury trial is like rolling dice. A jury can be as unpredictable as Lady Luck.  Edwards, a successful trial attorney knows all about juries.  Sometimes they’re for you and sometimes they’re against you.

The closing arguments went as expected for both sides. The defense tried to paint Edwards as a liar and cheat but not a criminal.  The prosecution painted him as a liar, cheat and criminal.  One possible misstep in closing arguments by the defense was trying to paint Andrew Young as an orchestrator of the baby mama plot—to hide mistress  Rielle Hunter.  That seems like a stretch of an argument.  It was enough to attack Young’s credibility due to his lies.  If the jury returns a guilty verdict, Edwards will appeal.  The prosecution will not be able to appeal a loss.  And if Edwards loses this case, he will face far more than the 6 month sentence offered to him.

While Edwards had success with juries, he’s not the one trying the case. He’s the one on trial. And that makes a huge difference.  As a trial lawyer, it’s often agony waiting for a jury to return with a verdict. It’s nothing an attorney can do but wait.  For Edwards, it’s all over except the verdict.

 

Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including  the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates,  RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others.  She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics.  She also writes for the Huffington Post.

John Edwards- Is He Guilty or Not Guilty?

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

John Edwards- Photo NY Daily News

The Edwards trial ended with a whimper instead of a bang, with the defense declining to call either  John Edwards, Cate Edwards or ex-mistress Rielle Hunter. That tactic may end up in resulting in an acquittal of John Edwards as the defense focused primarily on campaign finance laws and violations.

The prosecution with all of its baby mama drama, sex tapes, lying, cheating and stealing saga may have left out a key element of its case.  The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Edwards knowingly chose to violate the federal campaign laws and knew he was violating them.  Even the government’s star witness, Andrew Young, testified that Edwards was at a meeting with his lawyers and advised Young that the donations by the benefactors totaling $1 million were not campaign donations.   Bunny Mellon knew the money was being used for a mistress. And Fred Baron directly gave his money to the Youngs and Hunter for living expenses.

The key two pieces of evidence that may save Edwards from jail  rests on a Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) memo dated July, 2011 that found the $1 million donations did not violate campaign reporting laws.  The second document is a Justice Department Election Crimes Board opinion that states for criminal violations to occur, the act must be clear and  bear no doubt that the FEC considers the conduct a Federal Election Campaign Act offense.

There is no testimony that Edwards knew of the donations aside from the testimony of Andrew Young who claims that Edwards was present during meetings with Fred Baron discussing the donations.  But, Young has his own credibility issues. He once lied and stated the baby was his child.  There is also evidence that Young tried to sell the sex tape of Edwards and Hunter.  Young almost belongs in the same despicable category as Edwards.

The jury, much to the defense’s dismay, will  be instructed that any money or gift used for the purpose and not the sole purpose of influencing any election for federal office must be reported, even if part of the money was to hide a mistress from a wife’s knowledge. If the FEC exonerated Edwards of federal campaign donation violations, as the defense will argue, then how can a jury convict Edwards?  That is the question for the jury to decide.  The jury begins its deliberations on Friday, May 18.

For all of Edwards’ despicable drama, in the eyes of the public, he may not deserve an acquittal. But justice demands that he be acquitted of these charges based on the Government’s evidence and reasonable doubt of it.

Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including  the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates,  RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others.  She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics.  She also writes for the Huffington Post.

Is Same Sex Marriage a Distraction of the Real Issue?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Courtesy Emery Hines

President Obama announced on national TV his personal position on supporting same sex marriage. His personal position did not change federal, state or local law or policy. The states that oppose same sex marriage are still in place—over half of them.  Recently, North Carolina opponents of same sex marriage took to the ballot box and voted a referendum against same sex marriage.  And California’s referendum known as Proposition 8 is headed for the Supreme Court.  Nothing has changed in those states. Yet, some gay marriage opponents are now talking about sitting out the election. And some Black clergy are talking about the difficulty that they may have with their congregations and getting out the vote in 2012.

Let’s hold on for one moment long enough for people to get a grip on this issue.  While same sex marriage is complicated in the African American community, taking a stand to sit out this election is even more than complicated. It’s insane.  The real issue that exists is not being talked about by many Black clergy. In case anyone has forgotten, the real issue is the economy. It’s that plain and simple.

And while some folks are getting upset over President Obama’s personal stance on same sex marriage, those same folks ought to be questioning some other things.  People should be upset over why no bankers were ever indicted; why no bankers ever went to jail for causing the economy and financial market to fail; Lehman Brothers in the months before their financial collapse netted over $70 million to their top executives and then collapsed months later.  We find out this week that JP Morgan was lost $2 billion in the last few months and is expected to lose even more in the coming months. People should be outraged at the crumbling and further eroding of our economic system, instead of the President’s personal stance on same sex marriage.

While I applaud the President taking a stance in support of same sex marriage, I understand the emotional upheaval on his position in some segments of the Black community.  Gay issues in the African American community, putting it mildly, are complicated. I just wish the same fervor that catches the attention of some African Americans on the highly emotionally charged same sex- gay rights issues would catch hold the same way on the issues affecting the economy.

All I know is that Republicans are acting like they bear no responsibility for the failed eight years of the Bush Administration.  The GOP is acting like their failed policies that caused the largest economic collapse of our financial industry and changed the world as we know it was not their fault.  And blacks are crying foul at President Obama and threatening to boycott or sit out the election.

This is not the time for a sit out.  This is a time for a sit in. Every voting age African American needs to occupy every voting booth in this country come November. While gays are making same sex a civil rights issue, every African American—gay and straight needs to remember their civil rights history. And that means vote like your ancestors lives depended on it. In reality, their lives did depend on it. And our lives now depend on it—now more than ever.  Prince sang Party Like It’s 1999.  African Americans need to vote like it’s 1899. It might as well be 1899 if Mitt Romney gets elected.

 

Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including  the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates,  RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others.  She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics.  She also writes for the Huffington Post.

 

 

 

John Edwards: A Case of Sex, Money, Lies and Videotapes

Monday, May 7th, 2012


John Edwards- Photo NY Daily News

John Edwards, a once prominent trial lawyer, former US Senator, Democratic Presidential candidate and former 2004 Democratic Vice- Presidential candidate is now reduced to nothing more than sex, lies and videotapes.   Edwards is on trial for his alleged federal campaign violations in an elaborate scheme to hide money being floated to Rielle Hunter, his mistress and mother of his child.

Many prominent lawyers and legal analysts agree that the Government’s case is a bit of a stretch of campaign law violations.   Edwards faces 6 counts of receiving illegal campaign funds, lying on campaign statements and willfully violating the law. He faces 30 years in jail and over $1 million in fines, if convicted.  The final analysis is in the jury’s verdict.

The government had offered Edwards a plea deal whereby he could keep his law license and serve a minimal time in jail.  That should tell us something about the strength or should I say, weakness of the Government’s case.  The case has already cost millions of dollars in taxpayer money to pursue.  Most of the prosecution’s evidence has been focused on the sex life of John Edwards, his lies to keep his extramarital sex life a secret and videotapes of it. It would make for a great made for TV movie and may still be the focus on one at a later time.

Many think Edwards should be jailed for cheating on his wife of 25 years while she was dying of breast cancer, for having the affair while he was running for President of the United States, for lying and covering up about the affair and for later lying about the paternity of the child.  None of those are crimes and Edwards cannot be jailed for doing any of those things. So why is the US government spending so much time and money focusing on these facts, if they will not lead to a conviction?

The Government is making Edwards out to be a bad boy of campaign laws. Everyone who has remotely followed his travails knows he’s not an individual to be trusted. And I hope for his sake that he does not take the stand.  After all his lies upon lies, I doubt if anyone on the jury will believe a word that comes out of his mouth.  Yet, the Government must prove that Edwards knowingly violated the law and intended to do so.  Historically, according to experts, similar federal campaign cases have not ended up in a criminal court.

The Edwards trial also has an interesting sub plot within the main plot of campaign violations.  It shows how a once successful lawyer and politician thought so lowly of women, including his wife, his mistress, his daughters and the wife of his campaign aide.  He used and abused all of these women in his sex, lies and videotape debacle.  He thought so little of his wife of 25 years and mother of his children that he would cheat on her while she was fighting for her life with breast cancer.  It was a fight that she ultimately lost in 2010 after having to spend her precious time campaigning with her husband.

After almost literally being caught with his pants down, Edwards refused to do the honorable thing and confess his sins. That would have meant that he would have to suspend and end his campaign for the Presidency.  Doing so, he would have avoided his present legal predicament.  Instead he allegedly engaged in an elaborate hide the baby mama drama scheme, involving his campaign aide, Andrew Young and wife, Cheri, to hide Hunter.

Once the baby became known, Edwards refused to honor her as his daughter, saying the baby wasn’t his child.  At this low point, it became a scene for Maury Povich’s TV show on “You Are the Baby’s Father” segment.  Edwards allegedly engaged campaign aide, Andrew Young to admit paternity. Yet, in the final analysis, the truth came out and Edwards’ legal issues ensued.

Is any of this against the law?  That’s the issue facing the jury. The jury will need to decide if the money that was used to hide Edwards’ mistress was a gift or a campaign contribution.  The issue surrounds whether money used from millionaire “Bunny” Mellon in the amount of $725,000 and monies given by Fred Baron were for campaign purposes or to hide the baby mama drama. A lawyer for 101 year old Bunny Mellon testified  it was a gift for Edwards. The prosecution must also prove that Edwards knowingly violated the law and intended to violate the law.

The trial enters its third week with many more to go.

Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including  the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates,  RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others.  She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics.  She also writes for the Huffington Post.

 

 

 

Baltimore Judge Convicts Jewish Brother of Beating Black Teen

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Avi Werdesheim- AP Photo

In a case that appears in some aspects similar to the Trayvon Martin case, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Pamela White has found one Jewish brother guilty of assaulting a black teen, while walking in their Jewish neighborhood in 2010.  The second brother was acquitted.   The two brothers chose a trial before a judge, instead of their originally requested jury trial. The brothers stated they did not believe they could get a fair jury trial, in light of similarities between their case and the Trayvon Martin case.

Prosecutors said that in November, 2010, Eliyahu Werdsheim and his brother Avi attacked the black  teen, hitting him with a radio and holding him on the ground. Eliyahu testified that he acted in self-defense when the teen attacked him with a nail-studded plank. The judge rejected Eliyahu’s claim of self-defense.

And in a real twist of irony, the 16 year old black teen took the stand and refused to testify against the defendants.   The teen, after taking the stand, said he should not have called the police and would not testify. The 911 tape of his reporting the incident was allowed into evidence.  Although, prosecutors often drop a case when a victim is reluctant to testify, Baltimore State’s Attorney Greg Bernstein chose to continue with the trial. The teen’s parents, on behalf of their son, also dropped their civil suit against the two Jewish brothers.  Victims sometimes drop civil cases and attempt to drop criminal cases, when there has been some type of agreement reached between the parties. There is no indication of that happening in this case, but it is often the situation.  Only the prosecutor can choose to drop a criminal case.

The trial took one week to try before Judge White. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge found Eliyahu guilty of false imprisonment and second-degree assault, and cleared him of carrying a deadly weapon with intent to injure and Avi was acquitted of all three counts. The judge took a harsh tone in addressing the brothers and the testimony they offered in their behalf. She stated, “As I waited for straight answers, that wait proved thankless,” she said. Judge White also had harsh words for the Jewish neighborhood patrol group, Shomrim.

Eliyahu Werdesheim faces up to ten years in jail. And justice has been rendered in the case.

 

Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former Baltimore prosecutor and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including  the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates,  RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others.  She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics.  She also writes for the Huffington Post.