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This article is an update to the ongoing story of Lauren Stevens’ criminal trial. Read Sue Reisinger’s overview of the full case here. If federal Judge Roger Titus had any lingering doubts about dismissing the criminal case against the former in-house counsel for GlaxoSmithKline, he can let go of them now. Corporate Counsel has learned that even the U.S. attorney in Maryland didn’t believe the evidence was strong enough to sign an indictment. On May 10, in a rare mid-trial move, Titus dismissed the charges against Lauren Stevens, Glaxo’s former associate general counsel, before the defense called its first witness. The government had indicted Stevens twice on six criminal counts that she obstructed a federal inquiry and made false statements to investigators. Titus threw out the first indictment on March 23 after the defense objected to how prosecutors inaccurately responded to a grand jury question about the relying-on-advice-of-counsel defense. The government quickly re-indicted her. Prosecuting the case were Sara Bloom, an assistant U.S. attorney in Boston, and Patrick Jasperse, an attorney in the Department of Justice’s civil consumer litigation division. Both indictments were brought by grand juries in Greenbelt, Maryland, “for venue reasons,” according to Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller. “The letters alleged to contain false statements were sent from [Glaxo] headquarters in North Carolina to the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] in Maryland,” Miller said. However, U.S. attorney Rod Rosenstein in Maryland refused to sign the indictments because he didn’t think there was enough evidence to support the charges, according to a source close to the case who asked not to be named. When asked to comment about this assertion, Rosenstein’s office declined. Instead, the first indictment was signed on November 8, 2010, by Bloom on behalf of Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. attorney in Boston; and by Jasperse on behalf of Tony West, assistant attorney general at Justice. The second indictment was signed on April 23 by Bloom on behalf of Jack Pirozzolo, the first assistant U.S. attorney in Boston, and by Jasperse, on behalf of West. Miller at DOJ declined comment on the Rosenstein refusal, as did Christina Sterling, a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston. Both referred questions to Rosenstein, who wouldn’t confirm or deny it. Ryan McConnell, a former federal prosecutor in Houston who is now a partner at Haynes and Boone, said federal rules require an indictment to be signed by “an attorney for the government.” Typically, McConnell added, the “U.S. attorney’s name appears on every indictment” in his district, even if another government attorney signs it on behalf of the U.S. attorney. McConnell added that there are a few exceptions, such as when a U.S. attorney recuses himself due to a conflict of interest. But that apparently was not the case in Maryland. “Prosecutors can view cases differently, but if DOJ is prosecuting a case they think is a good case, it is unusual for the USA [U.S. attorney] to step in the middle by not authoring the indictment, unless he believes there is not sufficient evidence under DOJ’s charging policy in the U.S. attorney’s manual,” McConnell said. McConnell added, “Because all prosecutors are bound by the same principles of prosecution in seeking an indictment—enough evidence to sustain a conviction and survive a Rule 29 motion to dismiss—it would be unusual for a U.S. Attorney to refuse to sign off on an indictment where Main Justice had done the investigation.” Attorney John Wood, a former U.S. attorney in Missouri, agreed that the situation was rare. Wood, who was following the case and commented on it for previous Corporate Counsel stories, said he had noticed that Rosenstein didn’t sign the indictment and had wondered why. Told that Rosenstein questioned the evidence, Wood said, “It is unusual for DOJ to go forward in the face of a strong objection by a U.S. attorney.” Wood said DOJ’s pursuit of the case was even more odd because Rosenstein, whom he knows personally, was a well-respected prosecutor at the Justice department in the early 90s. Rosenstein has spent more than 19 years as a prosecutor with both the Justice Department and in the U.S. attorney’s office. During the Clinton administration, he served as counsel to deputy attorney general Philip Heymann, and as special assistant to criminal division assistant attorney general Jo Ann Harris. He was named U.S. attorney in 2005 and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. “He is a long-time career prosecutor, has the highest integrity, and is respected by people in both political parties,” Wood said.

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