Peregrine Trial – Week 31

Comments by Bob Grimes and Dana Grimes

March 30, 2009

Assessing guilt and innocence can be difficult in a white collar case; it’s not like a bank robbery. When someone is doing business with others who are engaged in a fraud, and may or may not have some knowledge of some fraudulent conduct, it can be difficult for a jury to determine who was guilty. In Deller’s case the situation was further complicated by serious issues of attorney-client privilege, which may have prohibited him from making disclosures of some facts, even assuming he had knowledge of any of those facts (the jury was instructed on this issue).

There was tremendous risk in Deller’s decision to go to trial because a conviction could have resulted in years in prison under the sentencing guidelines. His decision to continue to assert his innocence turned out to be a good one, as was his decision to rest when the Government rested, as opposed to putting on affirmative evidence, which his defense team was prepared to do. This case is now behind him, and he can continue his work as in house counsel for a corporation.

March 19, 2009 – 2:25 p.m.

Today, the foreperson in the trial of former Peregrine general counsel Eric Deller announced the jury was deadlocked. Judge Whelan asked the foreperson if further time to deliberate or clarification of law would be helpful, and she indicated they would not be. Judge Whelan thanked the jurors for their service and declared a mistrial.

Outside of the courtroom, FBI agents, attorneys and reporters talked with the jurors about their experience. There was no precise numeric split of jurors for guilt or innocence, and one juror reported no final vote was taken in the jury room when the jurors decided they were hung. Some jurors expressed they felt Deller was not guilty of all counts, others would have convicted him of all counts, and the rest were split in various ways as to each count.

A number of jurors stated they would have liked to have heard from Emma Wilson (former Peregrine UK counsel whose name came up frequently during the trial), and from Gardner, Gless, and the other major players in the Peregrine fraud.

One pro-prosecution juror stated he believed Deller had committed all of the crimes charged because he felt the evidence proved Deller knew fraud was occurring and “knew what he was signing.” A different juror indicated the phrase “smoking gun” came up various times during deliberations; he was concerned that there was no smoking gun document in evidence, and that the circumstantial evidence presented was too vague to convince him beyond a reasonable doubt that Deller committed a crime.

Although the Government felt Mr. Deller had criminal responsibility, they did not allege that he was in the inner circle of co-conspirators. In fact, he was far enough down the list of alleged culpability that his trial was somewhat anti-climatic – except of course to Mr. Deller himself and to his family and friends. A number of FBI agents and United States Attorneys have been working on this case for seven years, and they have obtained guilty pleas from all of the major participants of the conspiracy.

Despite their different interpretations of the evidence, jurors stated they respected each other’s opinions during deliberations. A number of jurors expressed high regard for the Court, the Government and the defense – one juror stated, “Both sides did an excellent job.”

Just as he has been throughout the trial, Eric Deller was composed and quiet in the courtroom. Judge Whelan set a status hearing date of March 30, 2009, at 9:00 a.m.