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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed the conviction of a local criminal defense lawyer found guilty in 2003 of five felony and two misdemeanor counts of tax evasion. In a July 14 opinion written by Judge Judith Rogers, the court found the government “violated its immunity agreement” with Navron Ponds “by impermissibly using his self-incriminating testimony and its derivative evidence” in order to convict him. The case now goes back to trial Judge John Bates, who must decide whether any of the material is usable and, if so, whether the conviction should stand. “I am just gratified that the circuit vindicated our position,” says Preston Burton, an Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner who represented Ponds at trial. Ponds first came under scrutiny in 2000 when the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland learned that he had acquired a Mercedes-Benz from a drug dealer he had represented and failed to reveal this to the court when it moved to seize the assets of his client. Ponds, who was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, cut a deal with prosecutors and was granted immunity. He then turned over numerous documents about his work with the drug dealer. Based in part on information from that probe, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia searched Ponds’ home and office, where they seized materials that were later used in the tax case. Channing Phillips of the U.S. Attorney’s Office says the government is still deciding its next step.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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