Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

U.S. v. DOLAH

August 18, 1999

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MOHAMMAD DOLAH AND MARSHALL WEINBERG, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert L. Carter, District Judge.

OPINION

Mohamad Dolah and Marshall Weinberg were charged, in an eleven count indictment, along with William Stern, Nelson Walker, Jeremy Crittenden and Eric Martinez, with conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with the offer and sale of the common stock of ConnecTechnologies, Inc. and Vital Signs, Inc. from July, 1997 to February, 1998 in violation of Title 18, United States Code, § 371, and fraud in connection with the offer and sale of the common stock of the two corporations in violation of Title 18, United States Code, §§ 77q and 77x. Only Dolah and Weinberg went to trial; the other defendants pleaded guilty to one or more counts. The trial commenced on April 26, 1999, and concluded on May 14, 1999, with a jury verdict convicting defendants on the remaining ten counts of the indictment.*fn1

Weinberg moves for a new trial on the grounds that the court committed reversible error in refusing to strike three jurors for cause, in curtailing defendants' cross examination of government witnesses as to their good faith belief that they were engaged in legitimate transactions and their reliance on the good faith of various persons not charged in the indictment, refusing to read a theory of the defense charge, disparaging counsel throughout the trial and in taking a partial verdict from the jury. Dolah joins in the motion as to the court's refusal to strike three jurors for cause.

DETERMINATION

The testimony supporting the jury verdict was straight forward, establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that defendants had knowingly engaged in a scheme to interest susceptible members of the public into buying worthless common stock of ConnecTechnologies, Inc. and Vital Signs, Inc., and in knowingly offering and selling them such worthless common stock of the corporations with the intent to defraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, §§ 77(q) and 77(x).

Dolah elected to take the witness stand, and, by his performance, doomed whatever hopes he might have entertained that the jury might find that the government had not met its beyond a reasonable doubt requirement. He told blatant and transparent lies on the witness stand and made foolishly absurd assertions, all of which did not aid his cause. Weinberg did not testify.

a. Jury Selection

When a panel of 36*fn2 prospective jurors was initially seated in the jury box, the court announced that the trial was expected to last three weeks and asked whether there was anyone who would find it an undue hardship to serve on the jury for three weeks. As the record will show a relatively large proportion of the jury panel sought to be excused. (Tr. 6-41). Those seeking to be excused were examined at the sidebar — some were excused for reasons the court regarded as legitimate, and others were not since the given reasons did not in the court's view justify their being dismissed. At the conclusion of this phase of the proceedings, with 36 prospective jurors once again seated in the jury box, the court completed the voir dire examination. In the course of the examination, several prospective jurors had stated that they did not think they could be fair. They were then examined in the court's robing room. (Tr. 61-66). After the examination in the robing room, the court refused to excuse Ernesto Santa, Margo Zomback, and Paul Grandpre for cause which defendants now challenge as reversible error.

The record shows conclusively that these three prospective jurors had no desire to serve on the jury and offered a variety of reasons as the bases for being excused. In his initial examination at the sidebar, Ernesto Santa asked to be excused because he had two children of seven years and 16 months. Taking care of them was "too much on [his wife]." (Tr. 17). When the court refused to excuse him, he said "all right" and asked how many days the trial was expected to last. (Tr. 18). When examined individually after being seated, Mr. Santa said he had been involved in class action suits against companies where there had been stock manipulation and that he knew a Marshall Weinberg but not the defendant. It was confirmed by defense counsel that the Weinberg Santa knew were not related to the defendant. (Tr. 39-40). Thereafter, he answered "yes" to the question "did he think he could be fair?" (Tr. 57). It appears that Mr. Santa was called into the robing room for further examination by mistake. The court and counsel must have confused him with someone else. At any rate, in the robing room, Mr. Santa voiced a bias against Arabs as a basis for not serving, a sentiment that he did not express during the voir dire examination in open court.

When Paul Grandpre was first seated, replacing a juror who had been excused (Tr. 21), he was asked if he had a problem. He replied that he did not. (Id.) When individually examined, Mr. Grandpre, an investment banker, married, with two children and a masters degree in business administration, said he might have trouble being fair because his parents were victims of overzealous brokers. (Tr. 46).

At her sidebar examination, Margo Zomback, an elementary school teacher, sought to be excused since standardized tests were scheduled to be given in her school. She was told she could not be excused for that reason. She then said she was scheduled for gum surgery and was told that was a second thought, and that she could not be excused for that reason. (Tr. 11-12). When examined individually and asked if she could be fair, she replied that she did not think so. (Tr. 45).

Ms. Zomback was the first of the three to be examined in the robing room. (Tr. 72). Excerpts from that examination are set out below.

BY THE COURT:

  Q. I think, Ms. Zomback, you had a problem about
  being fair?
  A. I just don't know that I can be fair. I just have
  a sense of feeling one-sided.

Q. Why?

  A. You want to know how I feel? Do you care if I feel
  that they are guilty or not?
  Q. No, but the point I want to know, you say you have
  a sense of feeling on one side. All you have before
  you right now is you have seen the people and you
  heard what the charges are.
  A. I just have a sense of seeing FBI men and the
  government making a case, I see a huge shopping cart
  full of folders, which I am assuming, whether right
  or wrong, I am assuming that that has to do with
  evidence in the case.

Q. You have never been on a jury before?

A. Have I been selected for a jury before? No.

  Q. Any criminal case you are selected for, even if it
  is a one-day or two-day case, you might find the
  government with charts and FBI persons. That's
  nothing.
  A. I am trying to just be honest, sir. You asked me
  do I have any prejudices, and I had ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.