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United States v. Rigas

November 20, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN RIGAS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sand, District Judge

OPINION

Defendants John J. Rigas and Timothy J. Rigas have moved for a new trial pursuant to F.R. Crim. Proc. 33 on the grounds that "the government's central witness gave perjured testimony, without which the Rigases likely would not have been convicted." (Def. Mot. at 1). Defendants argue that testimony given by James Brown at civil proceedings held subsequent to the criminal trial demonstrate that Brown's testimony at the criminal trial was perjurious. In particular, defendants cite to passages of Brown's trial testimony relating to his dealings with Adelphia's outside auditors, Deloitte & Touche ("Deloitte") and his allegedly inconsistent testimony at subsequent SEC proceedings against one of Adelphia's auditors, Gregory Dearlove ("Dearlove") and the acquitted co-defendant, Michael Mulcahey.

The government opposes the motion on the grounds that Brown testified truthfully at the criminal trial, and asserts that the evidence is not newly discovered and the jury's verdict would not have been different had it considered the allegedly conflicting testimony. We consider those issues herein.

I. Standard

The Second Circuit has stated that the test for granting a new trial based on newly discovered evidence is as follows:

First, the motion will not be granted unless the newly discovered evidence could not with due diligence have been discovered before or during the trial .. Second when the newly discovered evidence focuses on the perjury of a witness, a threshold inquiry is whether the evidence demonstrates that the witness in fact committed perjury .. Third the newly discovered evidence must be material..Fourth, consideration must also be given to whether the newly discovered evidence is cumulative, that is simply additional evidence to that which was presented at trial as to a fact, or unique evidence that tends to prove a fact at issue. [Fifth, the Court must consider] the effect the evidence would have on the jury's verdict had it been submitted at [the] trial."

United States v. Garcia, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11894, *7-8 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (citing United States v. White, 972 F.2d 16, 20-21 (2d Cir. 1992) (alterations in original).

Where the newly discovered evidence indicates possible perjury by a trial witness, the Court must first decide whether perjury has actually occurred. See United States v. Torres, 128 F.3d 38, 49 (2d Cir. 1997) ("In order to grant a new trial based on newly discovered evidence of trial perjury, the [defendants] must first demonstrate that the witness in fact committed perjury"). "A witness commits perjury if he gives false testimony concerning a material matter with the willful intent to provide false testimony, as distinguished from incorrect testimony resulting from confusion, mistake, or faulty memory." See United States v. Dunnigan, 507 U.S. 87, 94 (1993). "Simple inaccuracies or inconsistencies in testimony do not rise to the level of perjury." United States v. Sanchez, 969 F.2d 1409, 1414-15 (2d Cir. 1992). However, "[e]ven where newly discovered evidence indicates perjury, motions for new trials should be granted only with great caution and in the most extraordinary circumstances." United States v. Mason, 201 Fed. Appx. 22 (2d Cir. 2006).

II. Alleged Perjury by James Brown

Defendants assert that "Brown's testimony was heavily concentrated on the Rigases' alleged efforts to mislead Adelphia's outside auditor Deloitte." (Def. Mot. at 15). The government characterizes this as being a "false straw man," and argues that it was not the government's claim nor Brown's testimony that he deliberately misled Deloitte on all matters. (Govt. Br. at 22).

Defendants offer the following contrast as proof of Brown's alleged perjury. First, they note that in his opening testimony, Brown stated that he lied "about a number of things," (Tr. 6070-71), and that in his concluding testimony, he answered "yes" to a cross examination question asking whether he had "lied ... to banks and investment bankers and lawyers and accountants and sophisticated analysts and all kinds of people." Defendants argue that this testimony is inconsistent with the following testimony Brown gave at the SEC proceeding against one of Adelphia's outside auditors:

Q: Did you lie to the auditors about the co-borrowing agreements and how the debt was reflected on the books and records of Adelphia and the Rigas entities?

A: No.

Q: Did you lie about the gross amounts of related party receivables and payables reflected on the ...


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