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A federal jury Thursday needed less than an hour to convict attorney Perry S. Reich of forging a magistrate judge’s order and lying to the government to cover it up. Reich, 56, slowly shook his head as the verdict was read and removed his glasses. After the jury was dismissed, he sat motionless, his head resting on the defense table. Reich’s attorney, Richard J. Sgarlato, was stunned by the verdict and said Reich would appeal. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” Sgarlato said. “Usually if there’s a short deliberation, it’s an acquittal.” Reich said he did not want to comment as he stepped into the courthouse elevator. One juror, who would only identify himself as Luis and a resident of Nassau County, N.Y., said he was surprised that all the jurors were on the same page as soon as deliberations began. He credited Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Busa, who delivered closing arguments Thursday, with convincing him that Reich had faxed the fake order to an adversary in order to embarrass him and turn Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann against him. “Before I heard closing arguments, I was for the defendant,” the juror said. Reich was accused of forgery, lying to the government about his actions and obstruction of a civil lawsuit. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. When Reich was indicted last year, members of the legal community reacted with shock and disbelief. A Lindenhurst, Long Island appellate attorney with a varied practice, Reich was also a well-regarded clerk for two Court of Appeals judges and a man who finished first in his class at Hofstra University School of Law. During lengthy closing arguments Thursday, jurors heard two portraits of Reich. In one, he was a “desperate man” down $2 million who was trying to turn litigation against a brokerage firm in his favor. In another, he was a well-respected attorney who has been persecuted by overzealous FBI agents and prosecutors. Busa said Reich forged the order and tried to pin it on an adversary who represented the brokerage firm. Reich and the firm, Ryan Beck, were in civil litigation over Reich’s account, which Reich said was mismanaged to the tune of $2 million — his entire life’s savings. “The best way to frame your victim is to have your victim disseminate the fake order,” Busa said. She said Reich crafted an order that was favorable to the adversary, Joel Davidson, and used one of Davidson’s catch phrases — “apples and oranges” — to give him a black eye. She said Reich knew that his claim against the brokerage, for which he was seeking arbitration, would be dismissed, and he wanted to delay Magistrate Judge Mann and turn her against Davidson. Sgarlato said the prosecution’s case was “bogus” and nonsensical, and had been sloppily investigated by the FBI, particularly one agent who suspected Reich from the beginning. He contended that the alleged faxed order was not even a real fax but a photocopy. “There’s no way you can convict Perry Reich on this evidence,” Sgarlato said. When Eastern District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis finally finished with his jury charge it was 5 p.m. The jury deliberated less than an hour and delivered its guilty verdict at about 6 p.m. All three attorneys were forceful, though Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter N. Katz, who was relatively subdued when he cross-examined Reich on Monday, was the most animated as he gave Thursday’s rebuttal to the defense arguments. He ridiculed Reich’s explanation for why phone records showed that Reich made a phone call to Davidson’s fax machine that lasted more than three minutes, at the same time that the fake order to Magistrate Judge Mann was allegedly received. Reich contended that he tried to call Davidson but accidentally dialed his fax number. He said he immediately hung up the phone, while explaining that his phone had recently had technical problems that could have caused it to not hang up. The defense also suggested that an old fax modem in Reich’s home might have caused the signal to continue. Katz said that such a confluence of events could not be believed. “The odds here are astronomical,” he said. “He would have to be so unlucky it is ridiculous.” Katz said the jury had two theories from which to choose: “‘The unluckiest man in the world theory,’ or ‘He faxed the order theory.’” “The evidence here is overwhelming,” Katz concluded. “He lied all along, ladies and gentlemen, to cover it up because he knew he was guilty.” Sgarlato urged the jury to consider why Reich would do such a thing. Reich had no reason to be upset with Mann, he said, because she had so far issued rulings that would be favorable to Reich’s position. “There is no motive,” Sgarlato said. “Mr. Reich did not want his underlying case disrupted in any way.” Sgarlato posited that the fake order was a joke played by someone at Davidson’s firm on another attorney. He also suggested that Davidson, who faxed the order to several attorneys and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he was seeking a writ of mandamus, had much more to gain from the order. While Sgarlato did not offer any concrete evidence of who did create the fake order, he stressed that he did not have to, nor did the jury. “This isn’t an Agatha Christie novel, and you’re not Hercule Poirot,” he said. “You’re not here to figure out who did this.” He added: “Are you going to convict a man on speculation? I don’t think you are going to do that.” Unfortunately for Reich, that assessment turned out to be wrong.

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