Friday, September 30, 2011

Martha Stewart: The Return and Revival of A Media Mogul

[Photo from wikipedia]
Have you heard the news this week?  She's back!  Yes, according to various news reports, multi-media mogul Martha Stewart is back on the board of her own company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.  According to reports, Ms. Stewart has now completed a five-year ban from participating as an executive or board member of a public company. 

The five-year ban had reportedly been part of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, based upon, or related to, her alleged complicity in insider trading of ImClone stock.  You will recall that Ms. Stewart was never actually convicted of insider trading.  She was only convicted, in 2004, of essentially lying to investigators about the facts related to the ImClone stock transaction.  She served 5 months in prison.

I still maintain, as a former federal prosecutor, (and currently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer), that, if I had been her criminal defense attorney back in 2004, I could have possibly helped her avoid a criminal conviction.  In short, as I have written here previously, I believe that, in some grand jury investigations, targets could avoid prosecution if they would avoid making false statements to government agents.

But now, she is back -- on the board of her own company!  Don't you agree that she has paid her debt to society?  Doesn't she deserve a chance, once again, to rule her multi-media empire?  What do you think?

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Goolsby "War Story" About Appeal Briefs, Filing Deadlines, and Insensitive Bosses

[Photo from]
Today, as I worked hard to submit an appeal brief to the Court of Appeals, well before the filing deadline, I was reminded of a time when, as a former federal prosecutor, I had worked on another brief, and struggled to meet a filing deadline.  Here is what happened in the Smith appeal.  

First of all, you need to know a little bit about briefing schedules.  Generally, when the defendant is appealing a conviction, he or she files a brief first and serves the prosecutor with a copy of it.  Then, generally, the prosecutor has thirty days from the date of receipt of the defendant's brief before the government's responsive brief is due.  Thirty days is generally deemed sufficient time in which to prepare and submit such a brief.

But here is what happened to me in the Smith appeal!  Instead of serving me personally with a copy of the defendant's brief, the criminal defense attorney mailed it, instead, to my boss, who was the chief of the criminal section of the federal prosecutor's office.  My office was located in Augusta; my boss was in Savannah.  And there, the brief sat, and sat, and sat, for two-and-one-half weeks, on a corner of my boss' desk!  Also, since the defense lawyer had filed his brief two weeks early, I had no way of knowing that it had already been submitted.

I will never forget the day when I received a telephone call from my boss about the brief.  He first pretended to be calling about another case.  Then, he casually mentioned, "Oh yeah, Richard, I almost forgot that I need to send to you the Smith appellate brief.  We got it a couple of weeks ago.  But don't worry, because it looks like an easy one for you to respond to."  My heart sank!  I immediately realized that I would have to work the next two weekends, in order to have any chance of meeting the filing deadline!   And that is exactly what happened to me! 

And that is also why, whenever I file an appellate brief, I always remember the story of the Smith brief and my insensitive boss! 

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Copper Wiring Theft Epidemic

[Photo from]
While identity theft may be the fastest growing white collar crime in the United States today, I suspect that copper wiring theft might not be far behind.  Everywhere, across the country, thieves are hitting and stealing copper wire from construction sites, abandoned houses, and even churches.

According to news reports, one church, St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church, of San Francisco, has been hit four times by copper wiring thieves in the past four months.  How low will some thieves go -- to steal from a church?!

I did a little checking on some statistics about this growing problem.  According to the Department of Energy, this copper theft epidemic costs crime victims over $1 billion per year.  One reason involves the fact that, according to the New York Times, the salvage price of copper has skyrocketed in recent years, from about $1.25 per pound in 2009 to a whopping $4.00 per pound today!  It is no wonder, then, that crooks are crawling under vacant houses, and even under churches, to steal copper!

What can be done about this growing problem?  As a former federal prosecutor, I would recommend that purchasers of copper wiring be required to maintain better records about those who bring in the copper, (much like the requirements for recording data about pawn shop purchases).  Also, it may be inevitable that some law enforcement agencies will be required to form copper theft investigative units. (Should they be called the "a.c. units?!") These are difficult crimes to solve, aren't they?

Do you know of anyone who is a copper theft victim?  What do you think should be done about this growing problem?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Christopher Jeberk, The FBI Files, and America's Most Wanted

[Photo from wikipedia]
As a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, I primarily prosecuted white collar crime.  I was fortunate to have been able to prosecute some of the largest, most complex fraud and public corruption cases in Georgia history. 

However, one of my biggest cases as a former federal prosecutor had nothing to do with white collar crime. Instead, it was the high profile bank robbery, kidnapping, and escape case involving mastermind, Christopher Jeberk.  After kidnapping an Augusta bank teller, with two accomplices, and robbing her bank's vault, (while his two accomplices held her family hostage at her parents' home), Jeberk was later captured, but then escaped -- twice!  While on the lam, Jeberk and an accomplice committed a number of other bank robberies up along the eastern coast before his re-capture.  After his return to Augusta, I asked for, and Jeberk received, a sentence of life imprisonment.

This criminal case was featured on episodes of two popular television crime shows:  "America's Most Wanted" and "The F.B.I. Files."  I was interviewed for "The F.B.I. Files" episode.  Although that program has been cancelled, re-runs of this episode are frequently shown on the Discovery Channel.  You can also see it here on Youtube:  (There, you can also see what a Goolsby looks like!)


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Just Another Typical Investment Fraud and Ponzi Scheme

[Photo from]
You may have thought you had a bad week.  But did you hear about what happened this week to Georgia businessman Jeffrey Wallace Edwards and his company, Frontier Holdings, Inc.? 

According to various news reports, Edwards and his company were found guilty in a Rome, Georgia federal courtroom on an indictment charging numerous federal criminal counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.  The charges reportedly centered around on old-fashioned ponzi scheme, or investment fraud scam, in which investors, including thirty retirees, were induced by Edwards to invest their money, with outlandish promises of rates of return, which, of course, never materialized. The news reports indicate that Edwards spent their money, instead, on himself, for vacation cruises, fur coats, and other luxury items. 

As a former federal prosecutor, (and currently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer), I have handled a number of fraud cases like this one.  Most of them followed this same pattern.

Edwards will be sentenced later, in accordance with the federal sentencing guidelines.  Now, compared to this defendant, don't you realize that your week wasn't so bad, after all?!