NEW YORK (AP) — The good character of a convicted former Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble board member would be enough to acquit him of insider trading if he wins a new trial, his lawyers said as they asked a Supreme Court justice to suspend his two-year prison sentence until his appeals are finished.
Rajat Gupta is scheduled to report to prison June 17, but his lawyers asked Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in papers released publicly Tuesday to put the sentence on hold. The lawyers said Gupta was likely to serve half his sentence before his appeals are completed if the Supreme Court does not intervene.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March affirmed his convictions on conspiracy and securities fraud charges. If requests for the panel to reconsider its decision or for the entire 2nd Circuit to hear the appeal are rejected, the lawyers told Ginsburg they are prepared to immediately ask the high-court justices to consider the sufficiency of applications used to obtain wiretaps.
They also said they would want the high court to take up the question of whether a defendant such as Gupta is entitled to have the jury told that evidence of his good character may itself give rise to reasonable doubt. The lawyers said the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit have held that there are appropriate cases in which the defendant is entitled to a jury instruction of that sort.
“If this court decides this issue in Gupta’s favor, that decision is likely to require a new trial and a proper instruction that evidence of Gupta’s good character – a pillar of his defense – may itself generate a reasonable doubt,” the lawyers wrote. “Character evidence may well have made the difference in the case, had the jury been properly instructed.”
In Gupta’s request to Ginsburg, who oversees emergency applications from New York, Connecticut and Vermont, his lawyers said that he had agreed to surrender next week before requesting last month that he delay the date. That request was turned down last week by the 2nd Circuit.
The lawyers said Gupta’s trial judge only reluctantly admitted character evidence into the trial that showed “his exceptional honesty and … his extraordinary achievements in public health.”
“Indeed, without a proper instruction, the jury may well mistakenly think that the defendant’s evidence of good character is offered to excuse the alleged conduct, rather than to prove that it did not occur at all,” they said.
A prosecutor’s spokeswoman Tuesday declined to comment.