“A license to practise law is not a license to break the law,” said US Government prosecuting attorney Stephen D’Alessandro in his summation for the prosecution when the trial of Robert Simels continued in the Brooklyn court yesterday.
The matter got underway around 9:50 hours, some 20 minutes later than usual.
Robert Simels, the former lawyer for self-confessed Guyanese drug dealer, Shaheed Roger Khan, is on trial with his assistant attorney, Arienne Irving, for obstructing justice by the use of intimidatory tactics against witnesses, for the possession of wiretapping equipment and more than 12 other counts.
According to D’Alessandro, addressing the jury, in a crowded courtroom, the defendants Simels and Irving felt that the rules did not apply to them when they obstructed the courts of justice and attempted to intimidate witnesses in the Roger Khan case.
He told the jury that the two were no longer acting as lawyers but as criminals sending violent gang members to go after witnesses.
D’Alessandro told the jury that the prosecution has fulfilled its obligation by proving beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendants were guilty of the charges.
D’Alessandro submitted to the jury that Simels lied to them, that he was evasive when caught in the lies and that he told them what he, Simels, wanted them to believe him and his client.
He stated that even though Shaheed Roger Khan was not on trial, it was Robert Simels as his attorney, who corroborated with him and his gang of violent men, to make sure that Roger Khan’s instructions were carried out and that Khan be guaranteed a trip back to Guyana.
He said that the two defendants opted to have witnesses intimidated in order that they lie outright or change their testimonies against the Guyanese drug dealer.
Pointing to Simels’s assistant, Irving, D’Alessandro said that she assisted Robert Simels and as such was complicit.
He added that Irving may say that she was influenced by her boss, but that doing a job does not mean committing an illegal act.
He also submitted to the jury that Irving had choices that she could have made.
D’Alessandro referred to Simels’s client from where the conspiracy to obstruct justice began.
He described Khan as a major drug dealer who controlled a gang of violent men who were also themselves drug dealers, and who were involved in kidnapping, murder and torture of citizens in Guyana.
He reminded the jury by showing them photographs of the members of Khan’s gang (names provided) and those of Ronald Waddell and Donald Allison as he went over Selwyn Vaughn’s testimony of how the two men were killed.
Pointing to Barry Dataram’s photograph, the prosecuting attorney said that it was Dataram who managed Khan’s drug exportation to the United States and named others as members of the ‘Phantom gang’ that wreaked havoc by carrying out their boss “Short Man” Khan’s instructions.
He told the jury that the men who presented themselves as well-dressed people, were assassins. “They are killers. I don’t care if they wear Dockers,” D’Alessandro told a hushed courtroom.
“Do you think he is being honest? Do you think he lies?” he asked the jury.
He then reminded that judge Gleeson had to instruct Simels eight times to answer a question when the lawyer, turned defendant, sought to evade the question.
“I respectfully submit to you that Robert Simels took the stand and lied. He looked you in the face and lied …He is a lawyer; he knows the difference between lies and the truth and he knows how to answer and how to evade the question.”
Holding the fifty $20 bills in the courtroom, D’Alessandro said that it was the money that Simels paid Selwyn Vaughn to use in this quest to intimidate witnesses.
He told the jury that it is a crime to pay for someone’s testimony. He pointed that all the witnesses against Khan in the drug case were named on a list found in Simels’s office and that the lawyer mentioned them to Vaughn as those he wanted to neutralise or change their testimony.
Referring to David Clarke, D’Alessandro said that Simels told Vaughn that Khan said not to kill the mother but that he could use any means necessary to neutralize George Allison, Leslyn Comacho, Alicia Jagnarine, Farrah Singh, Vijay Jagnarine and Ryan Pemberton.
Among the targets in the case was to get Vaughn to lie about Roger Khan on the stand and to get David Clarke to change his testimony or not testify at all by paying him.
All that Simels was concerned with was that Vaughn carry out his and Roger Khan’s instructions and be careful not to get caught. Irving, D’Alessandro said was aware of everything.
D’Alessandro said that Simels imported the laptops to the US and that Khan instructed Simels and Irving that the base that one of his men in Guyana (name provided) had was an essential part of the wiretapping equipment.
The latter was sent to Simels’s office via FedEx as the FedEx manager testified, he reminded the jury.
The summation was spiked with the pieces of evidence being once again shown on large monitors in the courtroom and the jury again took notes.
The first defense counsel to take the floor was a Javier Solano, who together with Lawrence Berg is representing Irving. He told the jury that the government has not laid any evidence to show his client was part of any conspiracy and that even her employer, Robert Simels, said that she was not privy to several discussions between himself and Vaughn.
He said, too, that Irving saw and treated Vaughn as an investigator working on the case and not as part of any violent gang headed by Roger Khan.
And not having traveled to Guyana and meeting the other members of the Khan outfit, she felt they too were investigators working with Simels on the Khan case.
He said that her copious memos bear out that she was never any part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice when he asked rhetorically, “Why write memos or a summary if there was a conspiracy?”
He said, too, that the government agent also said that Irving’s memos of the meeting were accurate.
The defence attorney said that at two critical meetings Simels held with Vaughn, his client was on Jury duties and had traveled to Ireland. He asked the jury to evaluate the evidence against the two separately and they would find his client not guilty.
He said that she had noting to gain by being part of a conspiracy and everything to lose.
Late in the afternoon, Gerald Shargel rose to address the jury on behalf of his client, Simels.
He told them that the government’s case was all about words spoken and that nothing happened.
“There were words but no action,” he reiterated, saying that it would have taken additional steps to commit a crime.
“No one was intimidated and no one was obstructed at the Khan trial.”
There was an attempt of witness tampering and obstruction but no crime was committed, he said.
He said that the government has not shown any thing to support that. Its contention is that Simels planned to commit a crime.
He said his client was doing a duty as any lawyer would, to defend his client to the best of his abilities.
He said Simels did so at tremendous risk to his life as he traveled to Guyana, which he described as a dangerous place, wracked by civil unrest and cultural and political divides. He said that Simels provided proper legal representation to his client and that even before Khan became his client, Khan was aided and sponsored by a Minister in the government of Guyana to purchase the wiretapping equipment.
He said that the equipment was not put into operation since it was taken to the US and that there are doubts even if it can be used.
As such all that his client is aware of is that he has possession of the laptops and the transmitter which is being referred to as the Base.
He tore into the US government’s “double standard” as he called it. He said that Vaughn was ‘sent’ wired to Simels’s office, presenting himself as one of Khan employees, who was prepared to assist his ‘boss man’ in whatever legal way he could have.
Shargel said that there was no whiff of misconduct. Instead it was perfectly legal for the government to record Khan’s conversations while he was at the Metropolitan correctional centre and that the law permitted Vaughn to record Simels’s conversation.
He said that Vaughn was further rewarded by the government by being paid US$15,000 for his cooperation.
He described as “priceless” the S-visas granted to Vaughn’s wife and children to reside in the US.
He told the jury that it was not his client who introduced wrongdoings into the case. He said that it was Vaughn who did, as he told Simels of making witnesses disappear, become affected by amnesia or be paid to not testify or to change their testimonies.
Shargel told the jury that the matters raised by Vaughn, the government witness, were peripheral at best.
None, he said, was followed up by Vaughn to further allow Simels to implement any of the schemes he, Vaughn, raised.
He told the jury that there was a gaping hole in the prosecution case, as he added that whatever Roger Khan was in Guyana, he was not a hero in the US. He said his client rose to the challenge to ensure his client’s rights to a fair trial and that his rights were not trampled upon.
He urged the jury to look at the evidence before them and they would see that Simels never intended to violate any legal statutes.
Simels, he said, is a lawyer anyone would want to have defend them because he works tirelessly and leaves no stone unturned to find the truth.
He said that in the Roger Khan case, no false documents were presented, no stone was left unturned, and after 35 years of practising law, Simels is before the jury where he ought not to be.
As the day ended, Judge Gleeson instructed the jury that their mission is to find whether the government has proven its case beyond reasonable doubt.
He said their verdict is not to send any message.
Today when the matters continue, the prosecution will rebut and the judge will deliver the charge to the jury.
It is highly anticipated that the matter could conclude by Friday this week.
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