The prosecution of Washington criminal defense lawyer Charles Daum pits a veteran attorney against a former client, a local man whose drug case is at the heart of the allegations against Daum.
Prosecutors contend Daum and two private investigators conspired to fabricate evidence and tamper with witnesses to convince jurors that Daum’s client, Delante White, was not guilty in a drug case in Washington federal district court. Daum and the investigators were indicted earlier this year.
Jurors deadlocked in White’s trial in 2008, and a mistrial was declared. The case against White soon went under seal, suggesting that he began cooperating with the government.
Court records show that White and three others, including his two brothers, were charged with perjury and other crimes for their roles in a conspiracy to obstruct the government’s case against White. The disposition of the perjury and witness tampering case is not on the public docket.
Daum’s lawyers want the records in White’s case publicly filed, arguing that he can’t get a fair shake if he can’t see what transpired after the mistrial.
Senior Judge Gladys Kessler of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today held a closed-door hearing to review Daum’s request for access to records in White’s cases. Before shuttering her courtroom, Kessler said she was sealing the hearing “out of an abundance of caution.”
Daum’s lawyers, including David Schertler of Schertler & Onorato, and the attorneys for the two investigators filed court papers under seal asking Kessler to publicize the proceedings in the cases against White and the three others.
Trial attorneys Robert Spelke and Donnell Turner of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division opposed the public disclosure of White’s records, court records show. The substance of the government’s position, however, was filed under seal.
In the underlying drug case against White, Daum’s attorneys in June publicly filed a motion to unseal court documents. In those papers, Daum’s lawyers said he would be “severely prejudiced” if he cannot access the proceedings that involved White, his two brothers, Jerome and Christopher, and the girlfriend, Candice Robertson.
“It is critical that he be permitted to review the substance and posture of the current cases against these witnesses as part of his investigation and preparation for trial, and the constitutional guarantee of public access to court documents grants him the right to do so,” Schertler said in a motion (PDF).
The government’s case, Daum’s attorneys said, is “built almost exclusively” on the testimony of the four witnesses. Daum’s lawyers said they do not believe the cooperators are still working on any covert investigation for the government.
Schertler said prosecutors have already told him that White, his brothers and Robertson may be called as witnesses against Daum. Prosecutors have provided Daum’s attorneys with testimony from the four defendants, Schertler said.
Daum’s attorneys said “no ongoing covert investigation warrants continued sealing of this matter, and the identities of these witnesses require no further protection for safety or other reasons.”
“Mr. Daum stands accused of serious crimes that jeopardize his liberty and his career,” his lawyers said. “It appears that his primary accusers of are individuals who had substantial incentives to assist the government in order to alleviate their own criminal exposure.”
It was not immediately known whether Kessler today ordered the unsealing of records in White’s cases. Delante White’s lawyer, Mark Carroll, a solo practitioner in Potomac, Md., who practices in federal district court, declined to comment on the sealed hearing.
Schertler and the attorneys for the defense investigators said they are reviewing the government’s evidence, which includes phone calls Delante White made while jailed on the drug charges.
Cozen O’Connor partner Bernie Grimm, who represents Daaiyah Pasha, a defense investigator charged with Daum, said he is continuing to review more than a thousand phone calls that prosecutors have turned over as evidence. Schertler estimated it will take him a couple of more months to review the entirety of the tape evidence.
Kessler said she wants to meet again with the lawyers in October for a status update.