On Sunday, January 19, 2014, I interviewed attorney Sam Adam Jr., ranked one of the top 100 defense attorneys in America, who defended Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in his first corruption trial. This is the interview transcript of the radio interview : in which Sam Adam Jr. Comments on Chris Christie's situation and compares Christie's case to Blagojevich's.
According to Mr. Adam, Chris Christie is in a world of trouble, and could face RICO or mail and wire fraud charges.
ROB KALL.: And welcome to the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM, out of Washington Township reaching Metro Philly and South Jersey. Available online through iTunes or go to opednews.com/podcasts and on iTunes look for my name, Rob Kall, K A L L. My guest tonight is Sam Adam, Jr. He is an attorney. Matter of fact the National Trial Lawyers recently named him one of the top one hundred trial lawyers in America. Mister Adam led the first defense team that represented the former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in his 2010 Federal Corruption trial.
During that trial the former governor was convicted on just one count after the jury deadlocked on the remaining twenty three counts. So I invited Sam to be on the show to talk about Chris Christie, he has had experience defending a governor who has been accused of corruption. Welcome to the show, Sam.
S.A.: Appreciate you asking me, I'm glad to be here. I will answer any questions you may have for me I am just really proud to be here.
R.K.: Well it's great to have you here. So, basically I am interested in your take on Christie and how it compares to the Blagojevich story and how you would look at this as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney.
S.A.: Well I have got to tell you when you first contacted me I didn't see too much of a comparison but over the last twenty four hours I can see a lot of comparison between the Blagojevich case and the Christie case and how it's going to develop.
I think after yesterday's press conference and coming out by the Hoboken Mayor out there, Christie had a lot of problems and I can answer as far as the prosecution, how I would handle it, as also as a defense attorney, what I think needs to be done. But I see Chris Christie having a lot of problems now underneath the wire fraud, maybe a RICO statutes as well coming down the line.
R.K.: RICO, how is that?
S.A.: Well, as I am watching this progress, when you're talking about Bridgegate, you know where supposedly one of his underlings shut down the George Washington Bridge going down into New York, I wasn't so interested in that, but what happened in the last twenty four hours is, the Hoboken Mayor said that the Christie Administration through a Lieutenant Governor, as well as other aides of Christie have withheld Sandy funds because the Mayor of Hoboken will not approve a development in Hoboken connected to Christie.
Now that's a very important thing, that's exactly what happened with Blagojevich. For years here in Chicago and in Illinois, there were accusations being thrown about down in Springfield, in the capital, about Blagojevich doing certain things in a corrupt pattern. That he was connecting campaign funds with contracts.
And it didn't really go anywhere for the first term that he had and it really didn't go anywhere in the second term until there were accusations made about the senate seat and that's what brought the Feds in and that's what made them truly start looking at all of these things and started to investigate it.
Now Chris Christie, that's happening here. As the Bridgegate comes out, which I don't think they're going to find too much of a criminal activity, certainly it doesn't look good, but as far as the law is concerned I don't care about that. But the criminality of it is something that the Feds are going to focus on and what they're going to do is try to use Bridgegate here.
Go in there and ask those questions and then use the grand jury to get at other areas where there might be a pay-to-play politics, where there might be one for the other where you might have a quid pro quo and if the Hoboken Mayor is correct or truthful that the Lieutenant Governor connected campaign funds with another project and the Christie administration is involved in that, that is certainly something that the Feds are going to be interested in and certainly something that looks like a quid pro quo so it's going to develop into much more than just this bridge incident.
R.K.: What about the criminality of Bridgegate?
S.A.: Well the truth of the matter is there are so many laws on the books that you can get anybody for anything if you want to. Now what is very very concerning here is when it comes to, and I have to link these two because of the players involved here, one of the port authority, I guess aides or port authority persons for lack of a better term, involved here is an individual who also is involved with a law firm that was being used to lobby on behalf of the Rockefeller Group.
Now the Rockefeller Group is trying to develop in Hoboken and he and his firm were out there lobbying for that group. Now what's going to be very interesting here is how the Feds use Bridgegate. Do they come at this individual and say listen, we know that there's probably no criminal activity here on Bridgegate, that there certainly things that were wrong, certainly things that shouldn't have been done this way, certainly the people of New Jersey and the people of New York shouldn't be held hostage to vendettas, but we're really interested over here, what can you tell me on Christie's involvement on Bridegate? And then slowly move them in to the withholding of the Sandy Hurricane funds.
That's what I think is very important here and that's what I think is going to be just like Blagojevich and the criminality portion of it is what they're going to use to develop other areas of corruption and Christie is going to have to sit down with his defense attorney and talk about all of these various areas. Now if I were representing Christie, there's two things I would do first. First thing I would do is have an open and honest conversation with him, if you can.
Well I've represented a number of politicians and that's one of the difficult tests is getting them to be open and honest with what's going on. Many of them don't understand how the Federal prosecutions work and how really the Feds can get you on anything, if they want to.
Second thing you have to do, in my opinion, because this is where the hook is, this is the problem in pay to play corruption investigations are, sit them down and go through his campaign contributions list for the last six to seven years. Anybody who gave a contribution or anybody who is related that gave a contribution to somebody who got a contract, the Feds are going to be looking at every single on of those contributions.
Every single one of the individuals who gave a contribution whether it's five dollars or fifty thousand dollars and that's where I think Christie is going to have to, at this point in time, now that this Hoboken Mayor has come out and said these other accusations, he's going to have to slow down, if we're talking legally here, not politically, try to be quiet on as much as he can, and sit down with a defense lawyer and figure out, were there contributions given here that look like pay to play politics.
Because now that this has come to light, he's going to have to answer every single question he can on whether or not this was pay to play.
R.K.: Now you mention Federal Prosecutions, how do Federal Prosecutions work in a case like Blagojevich or Christie?
S.A.: That's an excellent question. I have been doing this fifteen years and I have come to a real belief here that when it comes to investigating or should I say investigating crimes that haven't happened yet like when you're trying to set up a drug deal or you're trying to set up a political pay to play, the Feds are not very good at it. They bumble, they don't understand how things really work, these are people that come out of the highest and best law schools and they don't understand the ground game, but when it comes to investigating crimes that have already happened, there's nobody better than the FBI at doing that.
And that's why I think Blagojevich had such a problem with the investigations because they were only investigating crimes that had already taken place. Now the senate seat, well they got tapes on that issue, the senate seat was one of the problems that they had, was one of the things we hung them on in the trial because there were tapes that weren't being played that we had, because the Federal Government was setting these things up and I don't think they're very good at it, but on the other counts, that had already occurred, they had a very solid case, they had the paperwork down and we went through it and should I say they went through it in a very concise and effective way.
Christie's problem is, it looks to me like some of these things have already occurred and that's how the Federal Prosecution and the federal investigation is going to go. They're going to go back and get things you cannot change. They're going to go back and get emails like we've already seen the legislature doing in New Jersey.
They're going to go back and talk to people and investigate their way forward and because they have so many resources, because they have many of the best and brightest and also because nothing can be changed to effect what's already been done, he's got some real issues if there is a single pay-to-play or can even look like pay-to-play instance that he was aware of and if this governor, if this Mayor is telling the truth, he's got some real legal problems.
R.K.: There's also the case of the Hurricane Sandy ad campaign that was not competitively sourced and it looked more like an ad for him and his family.
S.A.: Now this may be a little hyper-technical and I don't want to be too technical on this, but the reason that is important is one of the things, when you're talking about wire fraud and mail fraud, that the government has to prove, is that there was, honest services were not given and one of the ways in which you prove that these were not honest services is, was there a gain to the individual who did the fraud?
Well that's what the Feds are going to try to develop if they're investigation this. Was the use of these ad campaigns, was the use of these pictures of him a benefit to Christie that resulted from the fraud. If so then you can prove up honest services. In Blagojevich one of the ways they did this was they said his wife receives payments from one of the other alleged co-conspirators and that was the personal benefit that the family received. Here they also said in Blagojevich that him trying to get this senate seat was a personal benefit to him because it paid a thousand dollars more than the governor's salary.
If you recall, they said Blagojevich wanted to trade the pointing of a senator for him to get head of HHS, Health and Human Services. If the governor, if the President would appoint him to be Health and Human Services Director he would give the President anybody that the President wanted, in this case it was Valerie Jarrett the spot of appointed Senator. Well the government said and the judge allowed that that was a personal benefit to Blagojevich even though it wasn't money, even though it wasn't campaign funds, even though it wasn't money in his pocket like a traditional bribe, that benefit helped him.
Well here it very well may look like one of the benefits to Christie was that he is trying to run for President. He wants to go out here and do this, the ad campaign shows he and his family in a very positive light, and that was the benefit to cause him to commit these frauds and that's one of the things they're going to have to prove and that's one of the things that you can be certain the government is going to look at.
R.K.: Now, he's got the insulation of a crew of people surrounding him so that he may not have actually had sign off on anything personally. Does that protect him?
S.A.: Well as a defense lawyer I can tell you that certainly one of the areas that if he ends up being indicted or just during the course of the investigation can sink or save him. I don't know, I can't tell you truthfully because I don't know the individuals personally involved and I don't know what they're saying to the Federal Government as they're investigating but it can save him or sink him.
The reason I say that is even if he, let's suppose Christie didn't know anything about this and these individuals acted on their own. Let's say for the sake of argument that's true, then those individuals can save him. They say look we did these things ourselves, the governor never knew these things, and while they look bad I don't care how it looks this is the absolute truth. If fifteen of fifteen people that they subpoena or bring in to the grand jury say that and there's no evidence to the contrary then it can save him, no question about it.
He is surrounded himself with people who did bad things but also didn't apprise him of what was going on. But the opposite is true too, it only really takes one of them to break the chain down. If one of them comes forward and says listen, he and I got together on this and discussed this. He and I, he always told me he's not going to sign anything, to keep it away from him, but he knew what was going on, that can start the domino effect and all those other individuals can come forward and say the same thing.
Now because of the pressure of facing federal indictment, because of the pressure of going to jail, those individuals come and testify against him, that's even more powerful than if he signed off on certain things because now you have individuals who had these conversations with him who are going to testify to those conversations and it looks suspicious. As I have learned as a criminal defense attorney many times what looks suspicious is much more important than the actual physical evidence in and of itself because you can explain away a lot of these things but circumstances are a very tough case to beat because most folks believe in the principle and when they come and sit on a jury they have it, that if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, well heck it must be a duck.
R.K.: So you have got these people who surround Christie like David Wildstein who has already pleaded the fifth, how will the Feds use these people to get to Christie?
S.A.: Okay. That's a very important question but it needs to be broken down just a little bit. We don't know, and I want to be clear on this, we don't know if Christie did anything and I am not going to say he did, but let's assume for the sake of argument, just for this discussion that he did, this is how they'll use Wildman.
Wildman has already been very clear about this. He came forward, Wildstein I think is what it is. Came forward and said listen I will stand on the fifth amendment. I have a right not to incriminate myself. However if you give me immunity I'll tell you everything I know. Now I am here in Chicago which is been considered for a long time one of the most corrupt political states and cities in America and I have said this over and over and over again, while I am a criminal defense lawyer, I myself have defended the Governor Blagojevich and mayors here, I am tired of political corruption and so the way I would handle it if I was the US Attorney in this matter is I would start offering out immunity like candy to a baby.
If you truly believe that Christie is involved, first you have to sit down and look at the information you have and at some point you're going to have to have either absolute evidence or use your gut. Do I believe Christie is involved here and is this something that I want to root out? If you take the stance that yes Christie is involved here you go forward and you start offering immunity just from the things that you're telling us.
What a lot of people don't understand is that when you're offered immunity there is no more fifth amendment You're not allowed to stand on the fifth amendment The only thing an individual can do is go to court and refuse to answer and then be held in contempt and go to jail. Once you have been offered immunity you cannot not answer the questions without being in violation of the law and there's very few times that people do that that they just refuse to answer.
So I would, and I think this very well may happen, is that you start offering immunity down below so that you can start working your way up the chain and if they believe that Christie is involved, and I got to tell you, and I think this is why the last twenty four hours have been so important to this investigation, once a Mayor of Hoboken comes out and starts saying that there has been a connection between Sandy Hurricane funds and other projects, that in and of itself is a quid pro quo and is in violation of the RICO act or should I say a violation of wire and mail fraud because they're going to just use the check that comes in from Sandy as the wire fraud, he's got to believe, the US Attorney out there has got to believe there is some connection between criminal activity and the Christie administration since it was the Lieutenant Governor who allegedly did those things.
He'll start offering immunity down below to see what they know and build the case up. That's what I think there is nobody better than the Feds than doing; going below and building up. And if that's the case, which I think is how they'll handle this, one of those guys is going to get immunity and once that happens, once that occurs, the chips are going to start falling, the dominoes are going to start falling and getting in line with a serious criminal investigation.
Now the last thing I'll say on that, and I don't think the Feds will do this, they did it in Blagojevich and if you recall this, this is the one count I lost, I didn't lose any of the other counts on Blagojevich when I represented him, the one count I did lose though was lying to an FBI Agent. A lot of people don't know this but the statute is ten-oh-one and that's what we call it in the business, ten-oh-one is lying to a Federal Agent.
That's a crime in and of itself. While we argued and argued and argued the first amendment and you have a right to lie as long as you're not under oath, that argument has failed. If a Federal Agent comes to you and you tell them something that is not true knowingly, that in and of itself is a crime. Well what happened in two thousand and five and two thousand and six with Blagojevich is the Feds came to him and sat down and his lawyers allowed him to do this, talked to them and answered question after question after question.
The first one was not recorded, the second one was. He was indicted for telling lies regarding his campaign fund during the one that was note recorded. If I were the US Attorney and seeing that I know how politicians are, they just have to talk, I would offer the chance for Christie to come in and answer all questions, now he's going to do one of two things. He's either going to turn that down or say yes I'll do it. Now the chances that he turns that down because he's trying to run for political office, heck right this minute he's in Florida trying to get campaign funds, so you've got to know where his head is, he is truly a politician.
He's not going to turn down, especially to be made public, the opportunity to talk about this. Once you get him in your office and you give it to him straight, you don't do anything untoward.You give it to him straight you ask him question after question after question. Now he is on the hook for whatever he has answered and you're going to either A make sure that you've shown that this individual did nothing wrong, which is what the Feds should be into too. They should not just be trying to get convictions, they should be also trying to root out those who are innocent, but two is, if he has told you a lie you have got him on ten-oh-one and you have got an opportunity to do perjury.
If he has lied you can start from the top with the information and work backwards to see did he tell you the truth or didn't he or two, work up with the immunity to see if you can catch him, if he has done something wrong. I think that's a very beautiful way that the government should work and I think if they think about it, they will. Now I can tell you this, that Reid Shar was the US Attorney who prosecuted Blago here in Illinois. He has now been hired by the legislature in New Jersey to head up that investigation.
I can tell you this about Reid, he is extremely thorough, he is extremely dedicated, and if there are some of those things, that's where Reid will be very very very good at rooting out what occurred and I think that Christie is going to have some real issues here to decide. If that's the route that they take, they want to talk to him first, my advice as the criminal defense attorney is look, your political career has to take a step back to your freedom and right now we can't answer these questions because we don't know what they have and we can't go in there and answer anything.
R.K.: Wow okay, so you have gone on awhile I just want to ask a couple questions.
S.A.: Sorry, sorry.
R.K.: No, you're doing great! First thing is, you've said that in terms of looking at people who they're going to give immunity to, you start lower and you work your way up. Now I call my show the Bottom Up Radio it sounds like this is Bottom Up law
S.A.: Right, which is how truthfully which is how in my opinion it ought to be. You see a lot of drug prosecution where the guy who has got the most involved in it, the guy who has got the hundreds of millions ends up testifying against the mules, and you're working your way down. And the guy who has got the most involved in this gets the lesser time. Well I don't like that, I don't think that's the way it should be. Those who are most involved in crimes should be the most punished. This is the opposite of that. I think they can work their way up to the top and that's how the Feds are best and most effective.
R.K.: So they've really got to get the lay of the land in terms of his entire team and start lower down?
S.A.: Well what I think is going to happen is, look, politics is a dirty business, there's no question about it. One of the things that is going to help Christie is the fact he was a former US Attorney who did former investigations in criminal corruption and in politics. I think he got a hundred and thirty three convictions for pay-to-play politics and corruption in the political sphere, so he is going to know how the US Attorney works.
So he has that inner knowledge so he'll know what he can and cannot do. Whether he does it because he wants to be President of the United States or not remains to be seen. I don't think we can discount that. Blago truly, now everybody will laugh at this when they hear this, because they're looking in twenty fourteen back that he got fourteen years for corruption, but in 2005 and 2006 there was a real call that he might run for the Presidency of the United States, and he believed that.
And in fact people were trying to raise money for that. He was the first Serbian governor of Illinois and he had a big campaign, he had twenty four million dollars in his thing so he ran but that also caused him to make mistakes and caused him to say things he shouldn't say. I don't know if Christie is that same way. All signs of it seem to me that it very well may, when he comes out and gives a two hour speech regarding the Bridgegate incident, and having no thought to any other investigation, what he wanted to do, was clear to me, was come out and save his political career.
He really thinks about running for 2016 and as a defense attorney that's a killer to your defense if there are things out there. I mean he had no idea that this Mayor was going to come out and say the things that she said. Well how many more are there of those? How many people are going to come forward and say, listen, I was up to get a contract but he gave it to the guy who gave him a contribution. There has got to be many more of those out there, because that's just the nature of politics. When you allow individuals to give campaign contributions, you know there has got to be thousands out there. So that's what Christie is going to have to be facing because that's where the government is going to start.
R.K.: And we know that in Alabama the Feds were able to take Governor Don Siegelman and basically do what you described and he is now in jail even though I am a firm believer that what he did was not wrong and that he should be free.
S.A.: Well that's right and in fact they're still on appeal on a lot of those issues and I, you know, I had this problem in Blagojevich, I really did because I still to this day do not think what he did was a crime, now everyone is going to say I am his lawyer and of course I am supposed to say that, but it's true, I don't see it criminal. Unlike this situation, I'll get to that in one second. Blago never even was accused of taking one dime. There was not any, even the Feds had to admit during closing arguments that I was right, that if you follow the money he didn't get a dime. That's a little different than at least what's being argued here. What's being argued here, or should I say, at least what's being looked at here is there very well may have been direct campaign contributions given for this project to be supported that now is not being supported and so you're holding up funds.
Those are direct contributions, those are direct. And the US Supreme Court has said under those circumstances you can definitely get it on honest services. We have to look at this. Siegelman was even different than Blagojevich because there were at least some accusations of money going back and forth. Now I am not sure here who the contributors are. If I were an investigative reporter I would be, right now, this minute, on a website because you have to report these, looking at every single contributor over the course of his political career at least in the last six to seven years and I am sure you're going to start digging up, you're going to see the same contributors, you're going to see that, and then go to another website and look at who got the majority of contracts and there's no question in my mind that you're going to see some of the individuals getting big contracts also giving out big contributions.
And that's one of the issues here. Is that a crime? And I think with the way the Supreme Court decided right when I started Blagojevich honest services, there's a strong case to be made that it is.
R.K.: So Christie is in a lot of trouble. Okay so you mentioned and you differentiated between wire and mail fraud and RICO crimes. What are the differences?
S.A.: With RICO, which is Racketeering and Influencing Organizations Act, basically to give it to you in a layman's term, there are a certain number of individual crimes that the government has said look we want to crack down on, but we're not able to get at the individuals because they're hiding behind a corporate veil or they're hiding behind an organization.
So what we've done and it came out of Notre Dame with a man by the name of Blakely, he said listen, we need to get a law in the books that said if in ten years you do two certain crimes and you use an organization to do it, we can now get you for racketeering. That way we can, in criminal terms or should I say layman's terms, pierce the corporate veil.
So you can't, if you have an organization, say you're a police officer and you take two bribes, and you did it as a police officer, now we can get you in Federal Court because you have violated the RICO statute. You have committed two counts of bribery in ten years and you used either the fraternal order of police or whatever police department you're on as the organization. That's a little tougher to do to get somebody on than wire and mail fraud. And the reason is this, wire and mail fraud is conducting a fraud by using the mail in any way shape or form, even if you yourself didn't use the mail or the wire, if somebody that you were doing this with did you are now under mail and wire fraud.
I'll give you an example which is, let's suppose somebody robs a store in a state by fraudulent activity. You go in there and you tell them you're going to give them a product and the product is faulty, you know it's faulty, and you do this over and over. Now you haven't used the mail at all, you have gone in there, talked to them, had a conversation with them, they give you a check, you give them the product, you know it's false, now you have done nothing to violate the Federal Laws, until you realize this, that the giving of the check and then the depositing of it into a bank is now wire or mail fraud. You used the wires to get the money transferred from on bank to another, you have used the mail that they mail that check in to get the money into your account. Now it's a federal crime. Now you're not just dealing with the state, so it's very easy, even though you never intended to use the mail, even though you didn't do anything on the internet. Just the depositing of a check into that bank now you violated federal laws.
And this situation with Blagojevich and the situation with Christie, that's never going to be a problem for the government to prove. Why? Because the Sandy funds that were given from the Federal Government to the state of New Jersey were given via the wire, so now you have used, if it's shown to be fraud, now you have used a wire to do that. So the Feds are involved because of interstate commerce.
If you sent out campaign, this is one of the things that we argued in Blagojevich and lost, if you use the mails to send out campaign literature and then you've used that campaign literature to create a fraud, now you have used a wire. Now the Feds can come in under federal crimes. So it's very very easy to get caught up by the Feds on the use of wire and mail fraud and a little harder on RICO.
R.K.: So, that's real clear to me that if the Feds want to mess with you and screw up your life they have the carte blanche ability to do it for just about anybody who breaths.
S.A.: There is absolutely no question about that. I have spent my entire, my father spent his entire career, I spent my entire career, fighting against that. Now what I mean by that is of course nobody is for crime, nobody is. But there is so much power here that can be leveled by the Federal Government on individuals that you can't possible compete and there are so many laws on the books here that if they want to do it, they certainly can.
I don't think there's anybody who has filed a tax return as an adult and gone through and not at some point made mistakes that can be seen as fraudulent. There's nobody. Nobody has filed a return that's been 100%, nobody. And if the Feds want to mess with you that's one of the ways in which they can do it. Why? You have to mail in or electronically file your taxes.
Once you do that, the Feds automatically have jurisdiction and so that's one of the things I have spent my entire career fighting against is, look, the individuals here, the little guys here, doesn't have a shot if the government wants to come at you. Now, Christie and Blagojevich are, in my opinion, a little bit different. I don't believe Blagojevich committed an actual crime.
Do I like the governor of my state making references between him getting a job in exchange for giving a senate seat away? Of course not. Of course I don't. But I don't think it's criminal until you take an actual act and do something. But if the government wants to say it is a criminal act and gave him fourteen years, a non-violent offense, he ended up getting fourteen years. That's why I was so passionate about it at the time, we have a government here that is in many instances over-zealous, over-burdensome and goes after individuals for things that aren't actual crimes.
The reason I think Christie may have a serious problem here, I'm not saying he does, but he certainly MAY have a serious problem here is it's even more explicit than what Blagojevich was charged with doing. There's now accusations here that you tried to trade Sandy funds for getting a job done and also at the same time, while that's occurring, the individual's law firm who is representing the party that is trying to get the project approved is somebody that you appointed to the port authority. Now that's pretty darn close, and who is involved in sending emails back and forth about getting the traffic problems for the city and the Mayor who went against the Governor. That's some pretty serious allegations here and misuse of power which is not what we had in Blagojevich.
R.K.: What is the decision tree in the Feds deciding to throw all of their resources against Christie? What would that look like?
S.A.: Now, (laughing) the truth is I honestly have no idea. I can tell you what they'll say is that there are no political implications in the US Attorney's office. They don't care whether he's a republican, he's a democrat, he's an independent, whether he's a green party, that's what they'll tell you. What do I believe? I believe that politics play a huge part in this.
I believe when it comes to Blagojevich I truly believe this, that at the same time that he got arrested was right when President Obama was coming in to be sworn in and they had to get Blagojevich arrested before that because Obama would not want coming from Chicago, coming from Illinois having dealt with Blagojevich and just coming in as a new president would not want the governor arrested.
So they had to act, Patrick Fitzgerald had to act under republican administration and went ahead and charged him anyway so that's politics playing. Now here? It all depends, my father has speculated that much of Christie's problem is coming from the extreme right wing of the party I should say, he believes the Koch Brothers have something to do with this.
Now these are all just speculations. He thinks because Christie came out with Obama and hugged him during the Sandy Hurricane Storm that that's what lost the election for Romney, that many on the very far right wing want to see this happen and are pushing this and maybe even help fund it. I can't make any speculations on that.
All I can tell you is. in that office, there's no question in my mind, will politics have a play in this, and there's no question that it will, there's no question that a US Attorney who is looking at a potential Presidential of the United States and investigating him takes it very seriously. Look, we're human and we have to look at the human elements on this.
Let's suppose a US Attorney is in there and busts Christie, busts him and gets him convicted? Now his career takes off. Look at Reid Shar for goodness sakes! He convicted Blagojevich and now when anybody, a governor is being looked at, they hire him. Of course that goes into his thinking, but on the other side of it as well, let's suppose you investigate Christie and charge him and he wins and he gets public support. What's a US Attorney in New Jersey going to do with a potential President of the United States who may come in? Of course he'll think his career is over, of course he'll be dogged. I mean look how vehemently they went after Patrick Fitzgerald on the Scooter Libby stuff? The right wing hates him because of the things he did to Scooter Libby. Now you're going to come out and say that that doesn't play a part, that doesn't really come into account? I've been in this game too long. Of course it does.
The only thing I can't tell you because I'm not real familiar with the players is what side do they come on and who is pushing the buttons?
R.K.: So let's say that the Feds make the decision to go all out against Christie, what will that look like and how will that affect his life?
S.A.: Oh well I can tell you this, it will forever change his life, his family's life, if they decide to go full fledged. I know that there has been some accusations or at least some rumblings that he may have had some people put on a payroll that were looked at for ghost pay-rolling, that one of them was a woman and stayed at some of the same hotels he stayed at. If there's any truth, any truth to any affairs, it's going to come out. That's one of the blessings that I had in Blagojevich that he was so devoted to his family, they looked him up and down and there was not a single love note not a single phone call untoward any woman. That's going to be one of the things that effects whatever decision Christie makes. And if there is anything out there, and I don't suggest there is, but if there is -
R.K.: Well there is. There is Michelle Brown, when he was a US Attorney and she was also, he loaned her fifty thousand dollars and when he became governor he gave her a two hundred and twenty thousand dollar job that she was totally unqualified for, so unqualified for that he had to hire somebody else to do the actual job. That's what they're reporting.
S.A.: Well then you know when he comes home at night, and I have seen his wife on TV staunchly going after reporters because they were talking about his weight, this is a woman who is dedicated to him, at least publicly. That's going to effect the rest of his marriage, there's no question, whether it's true or not true. It's always going to be in the back of the mind of his wife. What really went on? And that's of course going to effect the rest of his life. That's just on a personal level. Politically we're already seeing huge ramifications just by the investigation.
You know we say in this country you're innocent until proven guilty, but other than when you actually take the oath as a juror, and I can say this without any hesitation that in my experience, jurors, once they're sworn in really and honestly take it to heart, that's why I love this country. That's why I think this is one of the best systems because they really do, they really do take it to heart, 99.9% of the time. But in public opinion, so many people have already convicted him on this that it has got to effect his political life.
Already the Governor of Florida won't do anything in public with him. Now that's got to effect you tremendously just by the hint of an investigation. Just by the hint of doing something wrong. People are backing away from donating campaign contributions which means you can't win as President of the United States. That's why Obama overwhelmingly won. It takes money to win at this game. The republican leader for the governors, chairman I should say, he is the chairman of the Republican Governor Caucus or whatever the actual term it. You're going to watch, he is going to have to give that up.
He can't be effective if the Federal Government is investigating him and he goes in to a state where a republican governor needs help and every one is backing away from him. The Feds can mess your life up completely. You know that they're going to go right at his taxes, you know that every single thing that's going to happen here, they're going to look at whether or not he reported his taxes right. You can say anything you want about the Feds but the one person that got away from everything is Al Capone. But they got him on taxes. That's what is coming. It's going to really and truly effect the rest of his life.
R.K.: So it's going to cost him a lot of money to defend this. I've talked to a number of whistleblowers and folks who the US Attorneys, under Karl Rove have gone after like Don Siegelman and Cyril Wecht and John McTiernan, he was the director of a couple of Die Hard movies and he ended up saying something to the FBI that I think was a lie at one point or something, I mean I don't even want to say that but it was a small thing that he is now in jail.
R.K.: And I know that it costs millions of dollars to defend against these charges. Where is that money going to come from? Is he allowed to use the resources of the state to pay for his defense?
S.A.: Now that's a very interesting question. All I can tell you is in my dealings with this, just like Blagojevich, take Blagojevich as an example. At the moment Blagojevich was arrested he was a sitting governor and he had 2.8 million dollars in his campaign fund. Now I can say this because it's all a public record because we went before the judge and this is what happened there. The government said look, he shouldn't be able to use his campaign fund to fund his defense.
The Attorney General here in Illinois, Lisa Madigan said she's not going to defend him. So he has to do this privately. So what the Judge did was, he said listen I will allow him to use what's left in his campaign fund but I am going to dole it out in public defender rates. So every lawyer that worked on the case had to work at public defender rates. My father, me, the individuals we had working for us, we ended up having experts and getting all of that done and we went through 2.8 million dollars at public defender rates before the trial even started.
S.A.: So that tells you what kind of defense this is. The Judge made us give him hour by hour, line by line, and he would not approve them until he was satisfied that the hours spent were actually done and done at the public defender rates. Now, what lawyer in his right mind, since I obviously wasn't, what lawyer in his right mind who comes from one of these silk stocking firms, is going to charge public defender rates? At the time I think it was a hundred dollars an hour. Nobody. Nobody.
These silk stocking firms cost seven fifty. Especially out east. Seven fifty, seven eighty, an hour. Now if there is an investigation and he ends up being charged, he is going to have to, the Judge will probably allow him to use a lot of thecampaign fund but how much does he have in it?
R.K.: Ah ha. So even though people donated this for politics, wow. That's -
S.A.: Right. The theory behind that is look. This is part of the campaign. Our argument was, here look he is innocent until proven guilty and this does effect his political life. This money should be used to help him fight these charges that affect his political life. The judge agreed but under those circumstances.
R.K.: So you helped him get that situation?
S.A.: Yeah. Well the truth of the matter was, nobody at the moment he got arrested there was 0% approval rating. Nobody wanted to take him on that had any real experience. There were a lot of people that made offers to work, of course, but they didn't have any real experience. None of the silk stocking firms would take it because it was so, in their terms, little money.
My father and I had just come off of defending R. Kelly and we were here in Chicago and there was a lot of notoriety and it was just my father and me, we were small and still are, a small firm. And we said look, this guy he has got to get some help here, what is going on here is just not fair, we will work on this case, let's see if we can go in there and try to use some of the campaign funds here to defend this. Now what's on the other side of that, Rob, is, you have to look at what the government spends, you know?
This is, I am giving you true facts which is with Blagojevich we had a year and a half to prepare. It was my father and myself and then we ended up getting other people to help us because we were allowed to use those, we got turned over to us five million pages, I mean that's a tremendous amount of work. Tremendous amount of discovery. Five million! And we had some like two million emails that you have to go through, if you go through it just one time you're still trying to develop a defense.
The government can come at you and spend as much money as they want. You know I joke about this but this is true. You know what happens when the government runs out of money? They print more. If you need more investigation you just go over to the mint and print more. Now Christie is facing this. If there is a real investigation and I don't know how there cannot be. How can a mayor of a city come in and say she was extorted or attempted extorted and you not investigate it? You have got to fight that. And it's going to take millions of dollars to do it.
R.K.: So when you defended Blago, there were twenty three or twenty four charges and only one of them stuck, the other ones were hung jury, what were the ones that did not stick?
S.A.: With Blago there were twenty four and we hung on twenty three. Now at the time, and I got to give Patrick Fitzgerald credit for this, right after it was hung it was learned that on the Senate Seat count, that it was hung eleven to one, that there was one individual that said look he didn't do anything here we can't, but on every single other count which was a wire and mail fraud for instance, the Mayor of Chicago now, but at the time was a Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, supposedly it was alleged that there was a school here in Chicago that Rahm Emanuel wanted to build a football field or funds expended to build a football field and allegedly Blagojevich said look have your brother do a fundraiser for me, you know his brother is Ari out in California who is a big time agent, have him raise some money for me and then I'll give it to you. That was hung.
Supposedly there was an individual by the name of Patrick Magoon who was head of Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago who was looking to get a lot of funds for the hospital and supposedly and allegedly he told Magoon, look you give me twenty five thousand dollar contribution I'll make sure you get your money, that was hung. But not on eleven to one.
On the twenty three of the twenty four charges, only one was hung eleven to one, everything else was either six to six or seven five, there were a couple in which there was more not guilty than guilty. The reason I bring that up is to say if it's done right, and you have the resources to come forward and show these things in a different light, you can have success. You can have real, real success here and knock on wood at that time we had some success. The thing I couldn't fight was when his lawyers had Blago go down and talk to the Feds without being recorded in some way.
That was done by a different law firm years earlier, which is to say here, Christie should look at this. One of the things Christie should do is seriously take a sit down with an experienced criminal defense attorney and say how should I handle this? I know I have a political life, and you have to take that into account, but I also have to be out here for my family and not be in prison. Am I making the right statement? Should I make statements? Is this something that I should still pursue? Should being in Florida and trying to become President of the United States really something that I should do here because when the Feds throw the weight of the Federal Government behind you, and this is, I can give you my quote at the time, it doesn't apply now but in Blago I said, in my closing argument I said, look at this, all of the weight of the Federal Government comes here and they can't show you a single dime that he took? Follow the money. They can't show you one dollar that he put into his pocket? It's because he is not corrupt. The same people who are chasing Bin Laden are chasing him and they can't show it. But the power of that is to say, look how powerful this Federal Government is and this is when they throw the weight behind you it effects your entire life and Christie has got that coming.
Now all I can tell you is especially in my opinion, after yesterday, the full force of the Federal Government is going to be investigating this. When they pull a guy out of Chicago to come over there who already got a governor convicted, they're taking it seriously. And if they do that, he has got a huge fight on his hand.
R.K.: Now the first time when you defended Blago it was a hung jury on all but one count. Was he going to go to jail because of that count?
S.A.: Was it certainly possible? Yes. He was facing a maximum on that count alone of five years but if that were the only count he was certainly susceptible to probation, that certainly is something we would have asked for -
R.K.: So what happened? What happened when he went back to court? Why didn't you represent him the second time and why did he end up getting convicted and going to jail the second time?
S.A.: Okay, this is what happened there, two things occurred. Your first question is, and this is something that I had to sit down and decide at the time was, is he best off with me and my father, my father and me representing him, or should he have new counsel to come in and take a different look at this?
And a lot of people always said it was because there was no money left and I never had an opportunity to answer that until right now and the truth of the matter is because we had worked at public rates the first time and the second set of lawyers got paid from what they call the CJA which are public defender funds, the money had nothing to do with it.
I would have made the same money the first time that I made the second time and the second time I made the first time. It had nothing to do with money. But what I said was my father and I came forward and tried this in a certain way and the most important thing a criminal defense lawyer can do or any lawyer for that matter is say what is best for the client? I could have had more international news. I could have gotten more stuff. For me it would have been a benefit to try that again but it wasn't, in our opinion what was best for the client.
The Feds, at that point knew my tricks, knew my style, the Judge had already come down on me but if your listeners ever want to look it up I had to go toe to toe with the Judge and threatened to go to jail right before my closing argument because he said I couldn't argue certain things and I said Judge, look I am willing to go to jail for this, I can't do it, you're cutting my legs off. And he finally, the Judge ended up backing down.
But they knew where I was coming from and it wouldn't be best to have that kind of contention for the client and so I said you know as much as I love you Blago, what's best for you is you have a new fresh set of eyes to look at this. A new fresh set of lawyers to go through this, and they did. Now the second thing that happened was the government learned through the first trial where their weaknesses were and so they started slashing and cutting counts, they started slashing and cutting witnesses, and they streamlined their case. At the same time the Judge denied Blago the ability to play any of the tapes in the second trial.
Even if he took the stand, which he ended up doing, and this is part of the appeal and any of your listeners want to look at it, it's pretty fascinating circumstance because it just got argued two or three weeks ago before the seventh circuit here and one of the Justices up there took a hold of this, why aren't you allowed to play tapes that the government recorded? Blago was not allowed to play a single tape at all, even though he took the stand in the second one and that's what convicted him.
In fact when they asked the jurors in the second trial, why did you convict him on it, they said look we listened to the tapes and there was no answer to those tapes. Not a single tape was played showing that those tapes were wrong or taken out of context, which I personally know aren't true because there were those tapes and so that's what happened there. I turned it over to another set of lawyers and the government streamlined their case.
R.K.: Alright now we're running out of time and I want to cover one other topic with you. I've been, in the last week I've interviewed two NSA Whistleblowers
S.A.: Yes sir.
R.K.: William Binney and Thomas Drake. Thomas Drake was mentioned by Ed Snowden as somebody who inspired him to become a Whistleblower. What they both mentioned which is very disturbing is NSA is sharing their US Metadata of all those phone calls and emails and what have you with law enforcement people in the United States, helping them to identify potential people to prosecute, helping them to come up with evidence, and then they're doing something what they call something like parallel development or something like that, never saying that they're using the metadata, just using it. Is this something that the Fed's attorneys are aware of and are dealing with in anyway?
S.A.: First and foremost I can tell you, most of us who practice in state courts are not aware of this at all. The only reason I am aware of it is because I have been following a little bit of this in the papers but the extent of it number one we're never going to know, two it's extremely troubling, extremely troubling, the whole purpose of the American Experiment if you recall was to get away from an over-zealous monarchy coming in and quartering troops here in America and spying on it's own citizens.
We've gone full circle here. Not only, and this is even a little different than that because now the government is printing it's own money as much as it wants and can spend as much as it wants to do that. It's very troubling, especially to me, a criminal defense lawyer. People always say to me as a criminal defense lawyer, you defend criminals, I said no, what I am doing is protecting the Constitution and this cannot be, if they're using resources on a Federal level to investigate individuals that they don't know, there's no oversight, there's no warrant procedure, they're just doing it and then turning it over so you can prosecute them, that is no longer a republic, that's no longer a democracy, that's a monarchy that is spying on it's own citizens.
And to call it data collection is ridiculous. Like I said to somebody the other day, maybe I should use this as a defense in a stalking case, no my client wasn't in the bushes stalking her, he was data-collecting. Nobody would believe that. And the government shouldn't be involved in that and we shouldn't as citizens put up with that.
R.K.: So, given that these NSA people are saying that the information is being given to law enforcement, would it be wise to ask in every single case whether NSA data was used at all?
S.A.: Well I have to tell you Rob you just gave me something to do. You know what? On every single case that I have I'll ask for. There's no reason not. You're right. If you are a lawyer is supposedly doing their job, we should ask for it. And in fact from now on it's called a motion for discovery. The state has an obligation to give you those things that helped them in their prosecution and I think you're 100% right.
I have not done that, shame on me, but I will from this moment forward and I think every lawyer that does this should and I think the government should give it to us. If this is where they're getting their information from, why shouldn't we be able to challenge that? Why shouldn't we be able to see what information is given if they're going to criminally prosecute you?
If you're not going to criminally prosecute, because you have got to keep in mind what this is about, it's about taking the freedom away from a citizen. If you're going to take the freedom away from a citizen for whatever reason you should be able to stand behind the information that you got you in that arena. And so the government should come forward with it and defense lawyers should ask for it and you have taught me something today and I appreciate it.
R.K.: Okay. I think we got to wrap up here now, we're right at the hour mark
S.A.: Yeah, I apologize I will go on and on so -
R.K.: Oh you've been great and really informative. Thank you so much