Venable partner Carol Elder Bruce and associate Anthony James Pagano successfully defended Maryland private accountant and consultant, Paul L. Wright, in his criminal prosecution for conspiracy to commit bribery, bribery, and conspiracy to commit theft of government funds. After a two-week trial held in Upper Marlboro, Maryland that that ended on July 7, 2006 , a jury took less than two hours to return a verdict of “not guilty” on all counts. The case was prosecuted by the Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor, a special state-wide prosecution office created specifically to investigate and prosecute significant public corruption cases.
Mr. Wright was charged in December 2005. The state alleged that a former Prince George’s County official, Robert L. Thomas, agreed with Mr. Wright and another county official, Robert Isom, to solicit a $250,000 bribe from a New Jersey company, Interior Systems, Inc. (ISI), in exchange for the award of a large county contract to provide security systems for two county buildings. At trial, it was established that the contract would likely expand to include over 100 county buildings. Mr. Isom pleaded guilty to bribery prior to trial, and testified against Mr. Wright. Mr. Thomas will be tried separately in August, the result of a successful but rarely granted pre-trial severance motion filed by the Venable lawyers.
The state’s case included the testimony of Mr. Isom and several other witnesses, over 15 tape recordings of meetings and telephone conversations between Mr. Wright, Mr. Isom, and ISI employees and executives, and other documentary evidence intended to show that (1) Mr. Wright knew Mr. Thomas was a county official; and (2) that he agreed to create a sham consulting company through which he would launder bribe payments from ISI to Mr. Thomas.
Through a very detailed and well-documented defense that included a unique use of visual aids to demonstrate the abstract concepts involved in a “language crime” such as bribery and the lengthy testimony of Mr. Wright himself, the Venable lawyers were able to demonstrate that Mr. Wright had an entirely different perception of the events and believed he was in a legitimate consulting agreement with Mr. Thomas, as a private consultant, to assist ISI in developing business and finding contracting opportunities in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Ms. Bruce and Mr. Pagano also successfully exposed the shortcomings of the state’s investigation, including the failure to record and preserve key evidence of communications between Mr. Wright and ISI that would have demonstrated Mr. Wright’s behavior was inconsistent with someone who was knowingly participating in a bribery scheme.
The Venable lawyers also called nine character witnesses to the stand − from as far as Alaska and New York − to vouch for Mr. Wright’s reputation for truthfulness, honesty, and integrity in the many communities in which he was involved, making any allegation of his involvement in a bribery scheme highly unlikely, and completely inconsistent with his good character. The character evidence alone was sufficient in and of itself to raise a reasonable doubt about his guilt.
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