Saying members of the bar are obligated to represent their clients zealously, a federal judge Monday acquitted two lawyers accused of coaching witnesses to lie on the stand.
U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber found law partners Beau B. Brindley and Michael J. Thompson not guilty of conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice.
Some spectators gasped when Leinenweber announced the acquittals — a rarity in a system in which most defendants either plead guilty or are convicted at trial.
Leinenweber returned the verdict following a bench trial that ended last week.
“The government has not proved any of the counts in the indictment beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.
Reading his findings, Leinenweber said lawyers are barred from presenting testimony only if they know it is false.
He also said there was nothing incriminating about the question-and-answer forms Brindley and Thompson used to prepare clients and witnesses for trial.
Although he handled primarily civil cases when he was in private practice, Leinenweber said, he himself went over testimony with witnesses before they took the stand.
Witnesses — particularly those not used to testifying — sometimes are confused or give answers they think the lawyers want them to give, Leinenweber said.
And he noted that the witnesses who testified they lied in previous trials at the urging of Brindley or Thompson were given immunity from prosecution for those alleged lies.
Prosecutors also promised the witnesses they would recommend reductions of up to 50 percent on their sentences for their underlying crimes, Leinenweber said.
Outside of court, Brindley and Thompson and their defense teams declared the acquittals vindicated the adversarial system of justice.
“The whole defense bar was on trial,” said Thompson’s attorney, Edward M. Genson.
And the bar won, Brindley said.
“It’s a victory for all criminal-defense attorneys,” he said.
Thompson had the same take on the matter.
“This case reaffirms my faith in the criminal justice system,” he said.
Brindley’s lead attorney was Cynthia Giacchetti.
Brindley and Thompson were accused of coaching witnesses to lie on the stand in several criminal cases from September 2008 through June 2013.
Brindley was charged with 19 counts and Thompson with six. Leinenweber previously dismissed an additional count against the men.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago was recused from the case to avoid a conflict of interest.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Chmelar, based in Milwaukee, was brought in as the lead prosecutor.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin declined to comment.
A third defendant in the case, Marina Collazo, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in return for testifying against Brindley.
Collazo, also known as Marina Perez, testified she was recruited to lie on the witness stand on behalf of a Brindley client.
In closing arguments last week, Giacchetti contended the charges against Brindley stemmed from prosecutors’ anger at his success in representing his clients.
Prosecutors seem to think defense attorneys shouldn’t put up a fight on behalf of their clients, Giacchetti said.
“That’s not the way the system works,” she said.
Genson made the same argument.
He also contended Thompson was indicted because he refused to give false testimony against Brindley.
But Chmelar countered that Brindley and Thompson’s credibility was suspect.
“If anybody in this case has earned a reputation for incredibility, it’s the defendants,” he said.
The case is United States v. Beau B. Brindley, et al., No. 14 CR 468.
In addition to Giacchetti, Brindley was represented by Patrick W. Blegen of Blegen & Garvey.
In addition to Genson, Thompson was represented by Blaire C. Dalton and Vadim A. Glozman, both of Genson’s firm.
Brindley, 37, earned a J.D. in 2004 at the University of Iowa College of Law.
Thompson, 31, earned a J.D. in 2009 at the University of Virginia School of Law.
Neither man has been the subject of a public disciplinary case before the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission.