Monday, June 06, 2011

St. Pierre Trial Wrap Up, Part II: The Zen of Turd Polishing

Ok....I got back in the courtroom just in time for the defense's closing statements.

Before I start with the closing statements I wanted to point out one thing that stuck in my mind is just how few witnesses the prosecution brought before the jury.  I mean they could have literally quadrupled the amount of witnesses to testify against St. Pierre but they kept it lean and mean.  I'm not criticizing, it just got me thinking a lot about their strategy.

As I stated in the previous run down, the lead prosecutor, Matt Coman (I wasn't sure if I could use his name in the last post but the TP did so I guess it's OK), was running like a sports car and the pace of the questioning was brisk.  I think, overall, this set a tone for the entire trial and I think the prosecution was so confident in their paper trail that they didn't want to bog down the trial with excessive testimony.  If that's what they meant to do, rely on the paper trail more than the testimony, I think it worked like a dream.

In fact, although I did miss the bulk of the trial, I was surprised that the defense didn't call a host of witnesses in just to break the prosecution's rhythm.  Also, I really question the presence of the defense strategy in general.  Here's I stated in the previous post when the "freaky-deaky on the boat bomb" was dropped it was farging atomic.  Castaing and Flannagan had to know that was going to happen...they had to.  In a purely strategic sense, I don't understand why they didn't have a female defense lawyer on board or at least sitting at the table with them if not actually making the closing statements.  I'm going to get to that point later on but every lawyer (on both sides) in front of the jury was male and as white as my hillbilly hiney after a long winter.  I don't understand why the defense didn't mix the bag in order to change the dynamic of the trial.  The jury was damn near a Bennetton ad....well no that's not exactly true....but the racial/gender make up was rather mixed.  I just don't understand why the defense wouldn't have tried to offset the prosecution with a visual, racial, gender variable but then again I don't have a law degree and I don't make the big bucks.

Having said that, I thought the closing statements for the defense were pretty damn good.  At times, it got a little surreal but overall I was actually getting a little worried about things by the time they finished.  Remember this was my first live trial experience.

Back to the action....Flanagan...hence forth know as, Sir Thomas More Flanagan...was the first to take the stage.  The rumor about town is that Flanagan's legal fees were actually paid for by Dell and I will address that issue in a subsequent post on Humid Beings.  It's apt because Sir Flanagan invoked Dell right out of the gate.  He tried to convince the jury that St. Pierre couldn't have been doing anything all that illegal if he was working with this fine, upstanding, national mega-corp., Dell Computers.  He also noted that the business practices which Dell conducts in the state of Louisiana, with Veracent as a sub, were a "standard way of doing business" in any state.

This was in reference to the loop Veracent/St. Pierre had created where they would build the cameras, ship them to Dell and Dell would in turn sell them back to the Louisiana municipalities through their state contractor's license.  

Flanagan's claim that this process is standard for Dell is absolutely, positively, not-fucking-true.

The jury, however, knew very little about Dell's shenanigans in Louisiana and the argument sounded valid.  Flanagan also harped on the fact that the prosecution claimed St. Pierre's bank, UBS, was a "Swiss bank account".   Sir Flanagan implied that UBS was actually not a Swiss bank, it just had a parent investor in Switzerland and the claim was a desperate attempt on the part of the prosecution to make the defendant look shady.  Therefore, the prosecution is so desperate to prove their case, they are fudging the facts to make St. Pierre look bad.

I'm not sure, because his back was to me, but I want to say Coman flinched.  Not because it made a damn bit of difference to the jury but because I don't think he expected the defense to bring that back up.

Still....well played Sir Flanagan....some of the finest turd polishing I've seen.  Of course it can't compare to the facade they just put on this turd across from Whole Foods on Magazine Street:

This turd towering over the Dirty Coast lair.....but I digress.

Sir Flanagan then grabbed the courtroom by the tail, hopped in a cerebral time machine and took us back to a more noble period...16th century England to be exact.  The topic of conversation suddenly turned from the unfair treatment of Marky Mark St. Pierre to none other than Thomas More Flanagan himself.

Flanagan, apparently hoping to enterprise on his pious sense of Catholicism, proceeded to give the jury and peanut gallery a brief history lesson on his namesake, Sir Thomas More, patron saint of attorneys.

 When he took this "Twilight Zone" turn in his speech, I was thinking he may tie the end of this tangential thread back into St. Pierre's tribunal and create a nice bow.  Perhaps he was using More as an allegory for Marky Mark...a man persecuted for his convictions...albeit ruthless capitalist convictions in Marky's case but a true ideologue nonetheless.

Nope.  It was just about him...Sir Flanagan.   Turns out Sir F is a direct descendant of Sir Thomas More.  An interesting caveat but how that made Marky Mark any less guilty was a mystery to me.

click on the image to expand

I couldn't help but glance over at one of the slew of lawyers sitting next to me to see if they were as bewildered as I was.  One of them looked at me with raised brow and shook his head back and forth.  Good to know I wasn't the only one wondering if the reels on the projector had just gotten mixed up.  We jumped from courtoom drama to period piece in a matter of seconds.

Minus that 15th Century detour down the rabbit hole, Sir Flanagan put up a pretty good argument.

Then it was wind-blown Eddie's turn (in reference to his tie being over his shoulder all the time).  Castaing came out of the gate bellowing the chorus, "Lies, lies, lies...yeah!"  He pounded on Meff's credibility bringing up his testimony in the civil suit and how he had lied on the stand as well as the deposition.  He threw in a mildly humorous zinger that watching Meff testify in this trial against St. Pierre was like watching "Extreme Makeover:  Witness Edition".  Yeah, OK, so that's not really funny but in that context any smattering of levity takes on a greater effect.

He kept referring back to the civil suit so much Coman jumped up and threw in an objection to the judge, "If he wants to talk about the other trial I'd be happy to do it."  Objection sustained.

Castaing then threw out the first of two incredibly silly analogies.  He stated "You can't rely on Greg Meffert in important affairs."  The first picture he drew (I think you should imagine this picture drawn with crayons, not oil paint) asked the jury to imagine themselves on a skydiving trip with Greg Meffert...yeah really...go ahead, close your eyes I'll give you a few minutes.... the plane takes off and Greg leans over to you and says, "Hey brah, I saw a rip in your parachute when it was being packed."  Then the plane reaches altitude and it's time to jump.  Right before the doors open Meff leans over and says, "Hey brah, I was just shittin' with ya', there's no rip in your parachute." (Obviously I'm paraphrasing.)

Castaing then asks the jury, "What are you going to do?  Would you trust Greg Meffert and jump?"

Eddie then proceeded to show a FOX 8 video interview of Meff when he came out of the courthouse in the civil trial and told the reporter, "I was just trying to tell the truth, I just want to tell the truth"  Castaing played it, I think three times, to get the desired effect.

I thought the skydiving analogy was pretty weak, I think the jury did as well.

However, Eddie's next move was not weak at all.  He went to the drawing board and added up the numbers which supposedly amounted to the total money St. Pierre received after his "supposed" kickbacks to Meffert.  According to Ed's mathematics, Marky Mark would have only profited $20,000 a year for four years bringing the total payout to only 80k over 4 years.  Of course he was using fuzzy math and selectively pulling from Imagine cash only, but it did make for an effective counter argument.

Ed then brought up that Meff was 6 months out of office when he started getting the kickback checks and that technically there was no bribery scheme in play because he had already left office.  That, of course, doesn't answer the MeffCard issue but it was a valid point.

Using that as a platform, Eddie then tried to convince the jury that Mark didn't believe what he was doing was illegal or bribery and if he didn't know he was bribing Meffert then the jury must acquit him.  He pleaded with the jury, "Today is the most important day in Mark St. Pierre's life and you have only one question to ask, 'Is there proof that Mark St. Pierre knew he was bribing Meff.?'"  Coman objected, "Your honor, that's not what the law requires."  Sustained.  Judge Falon informed the court that he would explain what the letter of the law is to the jury before they deliberate.

To help drive home the fact that St. Pierre didn't believe he was doing anything wrong, he pointed out that Meffert had an agreement with the city, signed by Mayor Nagin, that allowed him to pursue outside business interests.  He tried to make the case that Meffert was hired as the city CTO under standard city practices (he wasn't...he was hired under an emergency procurement process) and that Imagine was hired under a GSA.  He then went on to say, "If the mayor and the city (assume he meant city attorneys) OK'd the deal are they all dirty too?"

Uhhhh....yeah.  I mean if you're resorting to using Ray Nagin as your reference for honesty you may want to rethink your strategy.  Unless those jurors had been living under a rock for the past four years the last question I would ask them in defense of St. Pierre is "Do you think Ray Nagin is dirty, too?"  I really thought one of the jurors was going to answer him, "Are you fuckin' kidding me?"  Hell for a second there I thought Judge Falon was going to say it.  In retrospect it may have been worth getting a contempt of court charge to stand up and yell it, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!"

He then turned around and held his hand out towards MM and said, "Look at these guys.  They're geeks.  They don't know the legality of doing business with the city." (paraphrased again...just assume that everything is paraprhased) .  He then moved into the 2nd part of the defense strategy which was to imply that Baker, Donelson gave St. Pierre bad legal advice and that's why he's in this whole mess.  He harped on the fact that there was obviously some mis-communication between St. Pierre's Baker, Donelson' attorney, Kent Lambert, and the research attorney, Sherry Dolan.  Both testified and Lambert said he told St. Pierre that it was basically an "even odds proposition" that they could get into legal trouble for the kickback scheme they had set up.  However, Dolan, who did the actual research on the issue, stated to the court that she told Lambert it was "positively a violation of ethics".

Eddie was basically pointing out that if Dolan did the research and was convinced what they were doing was illegal, why didn't she warn the client?  Why did Lambert tell him it was 50/50 chance if Dolan was convinced it was wrong?

Castaing even threw in a little zinger at Baker, Doneleson and Sherry Dolan stating, "They did their research in the wrong area of law but that's another matter."  Ouch.

He then pointed out that "There was no money found in a freezer in this case." (ha, ha), and pulled out yet another ridiculous analogy.  Let me see if I can remember it right, I think he was making this up as he went along:  Imagine you're in a car with a sick child, out don't know where you are... there are no road signs or have to get your kid to the hospital as soon as possible.  You come to a crossroads and Greg Meffert is standing there.  Can you rely on him to tell you the right way to the hopsital?

First of all...why is Greg Meffert standing at a crossroads in the middle of a Southwestern desert?  Is he Papa Legba?  That actually freaked me out...the next time I drive through the Southwest (which I love to do) I'm going to be looking for Meff standing at a crossroads with an evil grin on his face...maybe with Ralph Macchio playing a guitar.

OK, Eddie...I got one for you.  You're a stripper on the Silicon Bayou....Greg Meffert takes you in his private bedroom and pays you to have sex but he doesn't want to use a condom.  He tells you he's disease you trust him?  Or wait, you're a stripper, skydiving with Greg Meffert but you have a sick child on board the airplane, which happens to be a G4 with Ray Nagin, Frank Fradella and Aaron Bennett on board.  You got pregnant and had the child when you agreed to have unprotected sex with Greg Meffert on a boat...but that's not important right now.  You have to skydive with the child and land on the roof of Oschner hospital...but first you have to depose Meffert under you think Ray Nagin is dirty?  See, Mark St. Pierre wasn't on that have to acquit!

It's almost as good as the Chewbacca defense:

I kid...I kid.

While we're on the subject of strippers, Eddie brought up the issue.  He said, "I know the strippers were a bad thing, I don't like strippers but this isn't church."  Well, actually about 30 minutes beforehand it kind of felt like church when Sir Flanagan was giving us the details of how Henry VIII executed Sir Thomas More for refusing to denounce the Catholic church.  Regardless, what you got against stippers, Eddie?  Strippers are as American as apple pie and dirty politicians....and I'm not going to sit here and listen to you bad mouth the United States of America...or skydiving and sick children.

Getting back to my point about having a female defense lawyer on the team, they had to know that the stripper issue was going to be big in this trial.  While I think Sir Flanagan did a decent job, I really think it would have behooved them to have a woman give one of the closing defense statements and have her address the stripper issue.  Hearing Castaing say, "I don't like strippers but they don't matter in this case" is not nearly effective as it would have been to hear a female lawyer state it.  That's just my two cents, I don't really know the legal defense handbook but I do know a little bit about psychology and perception.  It was a helmet party on both sides of the courtroom and it seems like they would have been better suited to mix it up. 

I'm getting loopy...I need to go to bed.  Almost done though...

For the finale, Castaing put up a picture of the Mefferts standing with the Nagins in Hawaii...really...he did.  They let the picture sit there for a while and I kept wondering what the hell he was showing us that picture for.  He then told the jury to look at those kids in the picture, "That's why Greg Meffert is testifying against Mark St.'s for those kids....and he'll do or say anything for those kids."  So now I'm really confused, a few minutes ago he was telling us that Meffert is just a damn liar and you couldn't even trust him to help a sick kid.  Now he's telling us all Greg Meffert cares about is his kids.  Am I supposed to like Greg Meffert or hate him?  And you're showing us the Mefferts and Nagins mucking it up in Hawaii on the public dime?  That shot really chaffed my arse when I saw it.  It just made me madder than a hornet at all of them.

He finished off by showing a cute, generic animation of a money bag flowing from Connexus past Unisys to Anthony Jones...but it's really not even worth explaining that.

By the time the defense rested, I was a little worried.  I think on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give them a 6.  Alas, they were still polishing a turd and I think even a 10 out of 10 wouldn't have been enough to get past the prosecution's paper trail....and of course the boat....and the strippers...and what the strippers did on the boat.

I guess the bigger question in my mind is "Why didn't St. Pierre plea?"  I've got some theories on that and I'll get to it in the final post, after I run down the prosecution's final remarks, the verdict, and the press conference in part 3.

I haven't edited this so I know there are lots of grammar gremlins and even after I edit there are grammer gremlins so please excuse....I'm goin' to bed.     



Anonymous said...

HBO's Treme had multiple references to Meffert and NetMethods on last nights show... I giggled like a school girl every time it happened. Given that the John Seda character was trying to get a deal through with Oliver Thomas to contract data cabling with the city, I guarantee there will be more Meffertiness. At the end of the Zulu parade at the close of the episode, O.T. introduced the carpetbagger to the man who will get him access to Meffert.

Anonymous said...


Check out who has recently acted as a registered agent of Dell computers in Louisiana (recently as of February of this year.)My eyebrows sure shot up.

Any word on what company is the "Texas company" refered to in the insider trading case against Frank Fradella?

There is a lot more to come on that one.

DR Commercial lines "of Baton Rouge", "of Louisiana", etc. seems to be a little insurance company or set of companies run out of a house in Covington. There is a salvage business connected to these companies, too.

Their naming practice put me in mind of Home Solutions "of Louisiana", etc.

The house is owned by people familiar to this blog, and the little companies are theirs, too.

They have employment connections both to the city and to Frank Fradella and Aaron Bennett.

When you check the Secretary of State Database, their names do not appear in connection to these companies named for their initials and run out of their second home.

They are going to some trouble to make themselves hard to track.

Why? We wondered. After one of your recent posts, someone I know went back to look at the city contracts that are up on line, and darned if there weren't contracts awarded to this little salvage company. Shades of Victoria White, with city employees cashing in on city contracts through their little side businesses.

Can this be true?

I want to know more. I am hoping that as more of the Frank Fradella business comes to light, the role of the city employees who have connections to Fradella and Bennett will become clearer.

People who read this blog know a lot more about this than I do, and more than the people around me who dig through the record of city contracts when they are bored at work. Please spill the beans.

Katrina carpetbaggers deserve to be outed, tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail.

Those who held positions of public trust and who violated that trust, manipulating the system to profit from the destruction of the lives and livelihoods of their neighbors, are odious.

Anonymous said...

the texas company was a restoration company out of plano named RG america, i believe. they were later aquired by home solutions in order to facilitate a bank fraud scam. fradella was a small time hustler who was in the right place and the right time after katrina. fradella's goal was to inflate the price of his stock, he told anyone who would listen that he and nagin were big pals.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dambala, there was a Frank Fradella who was connected with insider Jefferson Parish politics, especially back in the `90's and pre-Katrina early 2000's, to some degree with something called "Home Mortgage Authority."

Is this the same Frank Fradella, or is it definitely someone different?


Anonymous said...

I have a question - who had the contract to clear ou tthe marina(s) and harbor(s) post-Katrina?

Anonymous said...

ok on HBO's Treme - does anybody else find it sickening that Thomas was cast (hired?) to play himself, in a smugly-noble light, no less? the scene where he solicited the carpetbagger to give money to the social club, and then showed up at their second line in street clothes w/ a wink and a smile -- as if to imply he had the best intentions and only steered funds toward pro-culture stuff like second lines...

i wanted to puke. wtf. why would the creator of The Wire be so buddy-buddy w/ Thomas?

Anonymous said...

"why would the creator of The Wire be so buddy-buddy w/ Thomas?"

I don't know. Maybe because Thomas paid his price. There is still such a thing as redemption.

Anonymous said...

oh please. the man wouldnt even do the honest thing and turn all in the criminals that bribed him. he cited the tried & true new orleans line: "I AIN'T NO SNITCH!"

...thus he is a direct hindrance to progress and honesty in this community.

personally, my explanation is that David Simon is hopelessly in love w/ new orleans. like a kid w/ his face pressed up against the glass -- if he can get close to the stuff hes read about, the "real" city, then hes happy. thing is, he fills Treme w/ so much of this irrelevant name-dropping (unrelated to the plot or characters) that it simply drips with wannabe. he *really* wants us to know that he "gets it", that hes been to all the good local spots, thats hes down. i hate to say it but thats what makes the show unauthentic to me.

im guessing Thomas had a similar effect on him -- charmed him during their interviews, convinced Simon that he was the real deal, that he could show him our secrets and unlock hidden avenues of new orleans culture. as a result hes written in a *very* favorable light -- hes practically the fucking Peter Pan of New Orleans! "All on a Mardi Gras day, my fiend...[wink]!"


im thankful for the show's existence, but this "Jazz Fest-goer's tinted glasses" take on the city is what leaves the show a much weaker narrative than The Wire. like postcards, the episodes are scenic but flat.

just hope Simon doesnt tuck his tee into his shorts when "festing".

Anonymous said...

Oliver Thomas, redemption? What, because the play said so? How gullible are people? Poor O.T., he only took the bribe once and that's when he got caught. Sure, I liked (emphasis on past tense) the guy too, but he's dirty, not partly dirty, solid dirty.

By the way, what is David Simon's deal with trainspotting every little mostly-inconsequential detail? It's a little weird, frankly. Who cares? Give me some accents that don't sound like Missibama, have plots unique to NOLA, and that's all I need. Does it really matter if Tom McDermott played his version of "Blueberry Hill" at Snug Harbor on the first Sunday of the month or the second? Geeky is putting it mildly. Sheesh.