Criminal defense attorney and television commentator Robert Simels, 62, has been convicted in Brooklyn of plotting to kill witnesses. Also convicted was attorney Arienne Irving, 31, who was convicted of witness tampering. The jury only acquitted Simels on one count dealing with false statements after deliberating for seven days.
The virtual sweep by the prosecution was a bit surprising given the long deliberations and 45 notes with questions sent to the judge during deliberations.
Simels is a former prosecutor who often appeared on Fox and CNN as a legal expert. The charges stem from his representation of Shaheed (Roger) Khan, a major cocaine trafficker from Guyana. He was convicted of tampering with eight witnesses and both Simels and Khan were convicted of possessing illegal eavesdropping equipment.
Much of the trial focused on Simels taped statements boasting to a gang member. He is heard saying such things as planning to “neutralize,” “eliminate” and “destroy” a government witness against Khan. Simels insisted that he was just talking “street” to a lowlife (who proved to be a government informant): “Guyana is a Third World country. They sometimes speak in a very unappealing fashion, so I spoke down in a manner he would appreciate.”
On his website, Simels tell prospective clients: “I have been providing personalized legal services to individual and corporate clients in criminal and civil matters for more than 30 years. My exceptional success as a litigator has earned me a renowned reputation in the legal community.” Prosecutors insist that it became a bit too personalized in this case and crossed over into criminal acts.
Simels gave no ground as a witness but became so combative that Judge John Gleeson ordered the jury out of the courtroom to warn him about his demeanor on the stand, telling Simels “your career is at stake, your liberty is at stake . . . but I’m not going to allow this to continue, I’m going to step on you in front of the jury, and it’s not going to help your case.” For an account of the cross-examination, click here.
To his credit, Judge Gleeson turned down demands by the prosecutors to revoke the bail of Simels pending sentencing and instead put him on house arrest (here). He had, however, some strong language for the former prosecutor. He said that Simels went over to the “dark side” and “spent many years living on the wrong side of the law.” He added that “[t]he tragedy of this case was Robert Simels did so many things well.”
This does not bode well for sentencing. The case itself is interesting in light of the focus on the interpretation of such expressions as “neutralizing” a witness. After all, it is doubtful that Judge Gleeson actually intended to stomp on Simels in front of the jury. Perhaps he was just talking legal street.
For the full story, click here.