(Photo by Maggie Soladay)
The government said it expects the trial of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s former leaders to take more than four months, and that one likely witness is John Altorelli, a former Dewey executive committee member who is now a partner at DLA Piper.
Prosecutors from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and defense counsel returned Monday to the courtroom of Supreme Court Justice Robert Stolz ( See Profile) to discuss discovery and trial schedule.
The four Dewey defendants—former chairman Steven Davis, former executive director Stephen DiCarmine, former CFO Joel Sanders and ex-client relations manager Zachary Warren—are accused of taking part in a scheme to defraud and steal from the firm’s lenders, investors and others. They have pleaded not guilty.
Stolz told the parties he wanted to see a trial start by January 2015. Assistant District Attorney Peirce Moser said it could take four to six months to present the government’s case.
Moser said that one issue still to be addressed was the representation by Zuckerman Spaeder of both Warren, a defendant, and Altorelli, a prosecution witness.
“The People have an independent obligation to make the court aware of any potential conflict,” Moser said.
It is likely that Altorelli will be called as a witness, Moser said, adding that a question remains “whether or not he [Altorelli] will testify in a way that’s adverse to defendant Warren.”
Zuckerman partner Paul Shechtman, who represents Warren, said the conflict “is not a serious one” and has been waived by both sides.
Stolz asked that Warren and his attorneys return to court at a later date to address the issue.
Warren left Dewey in mid-2009 and enrolled in Georgetown University Law Center. He is a clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Altorelli left Dewey in Spring 2012 for DLA, where he is co-chair of its U.S. finance group.
In a lengthy interview with affiliate Am Law Daily in April 2012, shortly before Dewey filed for bankruptcy, Altorelli said he had “five of the best years of my career” at Dewey. He said if the firm’s fatal merger had happened earlier, Dewey would be in different circumstances. “It’s just unfortunate timing,” he said at the time.
In the interview, Altorelli said most lawyers are not good about taking advice given to clients. “They are surprisingly obtuse when it comes to their own situation,” he said.
Altorelli also said that Davis was a “solid” person who put everyone’s interests above his own, but “the CEO is a guy who takes the axe.”
He did not return a call for comment on Monday.
Altorelli made headlines in April 2012, when The New York Post reported that he was in a relationship and living with Russian spy Anna Chapman before she was deported.
Warren is named in one indictment with Davis, DiCarmine and Sanders and is also named in a separate indictment. Moser told Stolz that prosecutors will seek to consolidate the cases.
But Shechtman raised the likelihood of moving to sever Warren’s case. “Our case is a very short trial,” he said.
Prosecutors began turning over documents to the defense on Monday. Moser told Stolz there are more than 1.1 million documents in discovery and they would be delivered to defense attorneys in the next two to three weeks.
Stolz set a May 13 date for the parties to provide an update on discovery and motions.
Davis was the only defendant to appear in court Monday. He sat during the hearing between his lawyer, Elkan Abramowitz, a partner at Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello, and Shechtman.
Bryan Cave partner Austin Campriello appeared for DiCarmine, and Edward Little, a partner with Hughes Hubbard & Reed, appeared for Sanders.
Seven former Dewey employees, including ex-finance director Francis Canellas and ex-controller Thomas Mullikin, have pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme and have signed plea and cooperation agreements.
Stolz signed an order proposed by the district attorney to prohibit all parties from unnecessarily disclosing names or other identifiable information to third parties
“These cases have garnered significant media attention. Consequently, unnecessarily disclosing a witness name in a court filing could result in that witness being subjected to unjustified annoyance or embarrassment,” according to the motion signed by Assistant District Attorney Steve Pilnyak.
Pilnyak said defense counsel approved the D.A.’s request.
Prosecutors said they wanted to limit risk by prohibiting the parties from “unnecessarily disclosing the name of any person who has not been charged with a crime related to his or her conduct at Dewey & LeBoeuf” and prohibiting disclosure of addresses, phone numbers and places of work, among other information.
Pilnyak said the order permits parties to disclose a name when necessary.
Meanwhile, the district attorney is seeking a stay of discovery in the SEC case pending in the Southern District against Davis, DiCarmine, Sanders, Canellas and Mullikin. The SEC suit claims the defendants fraudulently misstated and concealed the firm’s financial condition during a $150 million private placement of securities with 13 insurance companies.
In a Friday letter to Southern District Judge Valerie Caproni, Pilnyak said allowing discovery in the civil suit while the criminal case is pending “would create an unfair burden on witnesses, which could interfere with their cooperation and testimony in both the criminal case and the civil case.”
Caproni, in a short order on Friday, directed the parties to inform the court whether they opposed the D.A.’s request for a total stay of discovery.
After Monday’s hearing in state court, Campriello, DiCarmine’s attorney, said of the proposed length of the trial, “We’ll play the cards that are dealt us.”
Christine Simmons is a reporter for sibling publication the New York Law Journal, where this story originally appeared. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.