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Sting Case Is A DOJ ‘Fantasy,’ Lawyer Says

The lawyer for one of the acquitted Africa sting defendants said today the DOJ’s entire case is a ‘made-up fantasy.’

Paul Calli, left, of Carlton Fields represented Stephen Giordanella. Judge Richard Leon acquitted him last month.

“The exoneration of Messrs Giordanella, Caldwell and Godsey,” Calli said, “and the inability of two separate juries to reach a unanimous verdict as to any count levied against seven other people, to me represents a complete rejection of the basic theories underlying the Department of Justice’s made-up fantasy that is the Africa sting case.” 

None of Giordanella’s five co-defendants were convicted. The jury this week acquitted Patrick Caldwell and John Godsey of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Two days later, Judge Leon declared a mistrial as to John and Jeana Mushriqui and Marc Morales. The jury was deadlocked on all counts related to them after deliberating ten days.

The first Africa sting trial last year also ended with a mistrial when the jury deadlocked on all counts. Pankesh Patel, Andrew Bigelow, John Benson Weir, and Lee Allen Tolleson may still be retried, the DOJ said.

“In our system of justice,” Calli said, “the ends never justify the means. And this jury, as well as the last jury, apparently appreciated that fundamental tenant.”

Twenty-two defendants were arrested after a two and a half year undercover operation. FBI agents posed as officials and representatives of the government of Gabon, Africa. The DOJ said the defendants agreed to pay bribes to the undercover agents to win contracts to sell body armor, weapons, and military gear.

Law enforcement stings can alienate jurors. A commentator said last year on the FCPA Blog: “I’m a cop, and I don’t even like a lot of stings, especially when they almost bait people into committing the crime.”

Another obstacle for the DOJ in the second Africa sting trial was Judge Leon’s rejection of the government’s theory of a grand conspiracy among the defendants. Evidence showed that most hadn’t met or spoken with each other.

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