Acquittals, Acquittals Everywhere

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The United States government never loses. Or so they say. A federal prosecutor sits on the front porch of the Russell Building and fields overtures from suitors, from federal agents begging “pick me, pick me.” And like Scarlett O’Hara waiting for dessert and smiling and telling the eager bunch, “I think Charles Hamilton may get it,” a federal prosecutor can pick the easy case and let the others go.

And yet the government loses. Regularly. And who beats them? Gary Spencer does. Brian Mendelsohn does. And Sarah Timmers and Sydney Strickland do, too. We celebrate these heroic whistle-blowers who resist the Russell Building’s bullies. Just this Spring alone, we have witnessed three acquittals in our very own federal courthouse. Here they are.

Gary Spencer Photo

Gary Spencer won a trial before Judge Amy Totenberg. Gary’s client was charged with money laundering. She carried out financial transactions for her imprisoned son. The son told the mother a tale that the money was part of his legitimate cigarette commerce inside the prison. Not true. The money was the son’s profits from his own crimes inside the prison. He never told his mom the truth, and the mom said so when agents confronted her. Gary told the government to dismiss the case, but they did not listen. The jury spoke the coveted two-word verdict and, afterward, Gary declared: “This is truly a great day in America.” Yes, the Sixth Amendment has been around much longer than any employee of our federal government, including our President. The right to trial by jury endures. Thank you, Gary, for doing your part to MAGA!  And these jurors are not the only folks who admire Gary. He recently won a posh award from the Southern Center for Human Rights.

Brian Mendelsohn won a trial before Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr. The case began when police officers broke into the client’s girlfriend’s apartment and found two firearms: a Glock pistol buried beneath an air mattress, a mattress on which the client slept, and an assault rifle hidden in a box in the living room. In discovery, the government sent Brian a music video and damning Facebook photographs, all of which showed the client holding, yes, a Glock and an assault rifle. But that’s why we have trials, right? Brian showed that his man was just a visitor at his girlfriend’s apartment, that he fell asleep on the mattress mere hours before the police busted in, and that the girlfriend had allowed a parade of armed drug dealers to trap out of her apartment. So the guns could have belonged to anyone. And neither had the client’s fingerprints or DNA. Not guilty.

Sydney StricklandSarah Timmers for Blog

And Sarah Timmers and Sydney Strickland won a trial in front of Judge Mark H. Cohen. The client bought four identical Hi-Point firearms. At the store, she checked a box on the ATF form to say she was the “actual buyer.” But the next day, when ATF agents searched the home of two friends (and future co-defendants), the agents found the guns, still in the original boxes. At trial, an agent told the jury that no one, no one at all, would buy four of the same pistol unless she planned to sell the guns. But wait: the jury believed the client’s narrative instead, and set her free. She testified that she bought two of the firearms for herself and the others as gifts for family members. Her family home was bursting at the seams, so she often slept elsewhere and, on the night she bought the guns, she slept at the co-defendants’ home. We have this from Sarah’s post-game interview: “My client was factually innocent and her testifying made all the difference to the jury. She testified very well and was grounded and sure of herself.” As she should be.

Contributors: Natasha Silas and Victoria Calvert.

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