On Monday, Cynthia (Cindy) Giacchetti of Chicago, Illinois, secured a thrilling victory, earning acquittals on all counts against criminal defense attorney Beau Brindley who faced a 21-count indictment charging conspiracy, perjury, and obstruction of justice. Earlier this year, I posted my concerns about the potential consequences of an overreaching prosecution such as this one on the criminal defense community here. The crux of the prosecution case was that Brindley coached both clients and defense witnesses during trial preparations to lie and commit perjury at trial. This has to be one of the scariest slippery slope prosecutions that I have ever seen and without question an attack on the criminal defense bar.
The news of the acquittal quickly hit the news media and was reported by the Chicago Tribune here with a fabulous picture of Cindy and her client right after the acquittal. You can sense the relief in their faces. And in the Chicago Sun Times here, where you can hear Brindley commenting on the meaning of the verdict for the defense community and his hope that attorneys will continue to aggressively and vigorously defend their clients; and also on Yahoo News here.
After learning of the acquittal, I had the privilege of talking to Cindy briefly after the verdict. She was thrilled for her client, as any criminal defense attorney would be, but it was also clear that this fight was personal to her as a criminal defense attorney. She spoke about the double standard being used when the Government argued that Brindley knew his client was lying because the client changed some of the details, though not the essence, of his story. Cindy noted that the Government presents witnesses every day who have changed their stories multiple times, sometimes flipping 180 degrees. She said that if lawyers should be barred from calling a witness “every time someone changes their testimony, then they need to shut the doors of the United States Attorney’s Office.”
She and the Government had agreed to a bench trial before the district court judge. The United States Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Illinois recused itself and the trial was handled by the Milwaukee office. However, there were many troubling details of the investigation, such as the fact that it was initiated by the Northern District of Illinois Assistants who prosecuted Brindley’s clients at the trials in which they claimed the perjured testimony was elicited. After losing significant counts, these same federal prosecutors approached the witnesses and defendants directly, made clear that their focus was on Brindley, and suggested that cooperation against the defense lawyers would result in significant sentence reductions pursuant to Rule 35. Only later did the office recuse itself. The witnesses reached agreements for sentence reductions of up to 50% off their original sentences, reductions that are not customary in the district. Additionally, when the FBI executed a warrant on Brindley’s law office, they made and retained a mirror image of the contents of every computer in the office, which included all of his clients’ files, not just the three that were authorized to be seized under the warrant.
Cindy spoke about the irony that the Government used witnesses they argued perjured themselves at Brindley’s bequest to now establish that Brindley knew they were lying. She was frustrated at the Government’s position that defense attorneys should not put a client on the witness stand if the weight of the Government’s case points to guilt. She said she never lost her faith in her client, stating, “I have always believed he was innocent — always.”
“I know he is aggressive, but I like that about him. That is what a good criminal defense lawyer is supposed to be,” she added, as compared to the Government’s belief that “defense attorneys are supposed to be potted plants.”
From where I sit, this acquittal has great meaning for every criminal defense attorney and lawyers as a whole. Every accused deserves an aggressive advocate, not one that is forced to look over his or her shoulder during each and every conversation. Clients deserve more from us than that: They deserve a true advocate, not a prosecutor in defender clothes. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Cindy Giacchetti for taking this up, fighting for and with this courageous client and colleague who was willing to stand up for what he believed in. And I can’t help but be particularly proud that this monumental victory was at the hands of one of our sisters from the Windy City. Congrats, Cindy!!