Two New York Criminal Defense Attorneys Convicted of Witness Tampering

Simelspicture-WebCriminal 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.

15 thoughts on “Two New York Criminal Defense Attorneys Convicted of Witness Tampering”

  1. The Lawyer-Client Privilege is long recognized in criminal courts in Florida. The client has the privilege to refuse to disclose confidential communications when the communications were made when rendering legal services to that client. The privilege can be claimed by the client, the client’s guardian, the personal representative of a dead client, and the lawyer on behalf of the client.

    There is no Lawyer-Client Privilege if:
    1. The services of the attorney were obtained to aid anyone to commit a crime.
    2. The communication is relevant to an issue brought out by people who have made a claim through a dead client.
    3. A communication is relevant as to whether or not the lawyer breached a duty to the client.
    4. A communication is relevant to the competence of a client to execute a document in which the lawyer was a witness.

  2. Patty C:


    Details details – always with the details…!

    p.s. How’s it hangin’?”


    “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”

    –Ernest Hemingway

    The Devil and I are in the details as you know already. Things are good.

  3. mespo,

    Details details – always with the details…!

    p.s. How’s it hangin’?

  4. Gary T:

    “Simel was innocent based upon the evidence.”


    Sorry Gary T, but you don’t get to alter reality. At this time, Simel stands guilty based on the decision of a jury of his peers who heard all the evidence, your contrary opinion notwithstanding. Lest you think otherwise, note the Judge’s comments who also heard the evidence.

  5. Simel was innocent based upon the evidence.

    My interpretation is that it was NOT beyond a reasonable doubt that this man conspired or intended a murder to take place. That is why he didn’t say “I am going to kill them”. People use the euphemisms he used all the time without meaning or intending death to their legal adversaries. It is ridiculous and overreaching. I am surprised that the jury swallowed this legal theory.

  6. I find defendant Simels’ language shocking, but I would certainly need more to convict him of plotting premeditated murder or witness tampering. For example, I would like to know if he expanded on his comments with the informant to include details or specific plans. I would also like a transcript to get the context and the tone of the conversation. The jury heard all of this, but it is hard to accept that a man with his experience would let hubris overcome his judgment in dealing with a potential government snitch as we know all criminal associates are likely to be at some point in their “career.” Still, it may be another sad tale of the now ubiquitous “celebrity” lawyer believing his own clippings and consequently being foisted on his own petard.

  7. Buddha Is Laughing,

    . . . .It’s not like this guy represents angels and it’s not like an ambitious prosecutor has never gone too far to make a case – even to the point of painting counsel as co-conspirators.

    I have seen Attorney that have practiced in Federal Court who been reduced to financial rubble after the Prosecutor has had them indicted for “Money Laundering” when they have lost enough cases against a certain Defense Attorney. They have the IRS do the dirty work and then somehow or another this get reported to the papers and they run an article.

    I also know a Federal Defense attorney that was so good at his job, he had been a former Marshal. He knew the game inside and out. Not only did they get him fired he got his job back under the condition that he move to another circuit.

    So with cases like this I wonder what if the Prosecutor really had to a grudge match to settle.

    You know Jack K or Dr. Death never violated any criminal laws and so they changed the laws to have a better chance to convict. Which he was, a law written just for Dr. J.

  8. Or maybe the prosecutors don’t want him proper and are heating him up with what seem like thin charges for another reason: leveraging him to get to get at a client or former client they think he’s been actively engaged in a criminal enterprise with. It’s not like this guy represents angels and it’s not like an ambitious prosecutor has never gone too far to make a case – even to the point of painting counsel as co-conspirators.

  9. People attempt to “neutralize,” “eliminate” and “destroy” any person’s *credibility* all of the time with whom they disagree, legally or otherwise. I think that it is wrong for people in a court case to ‘interpret’ what those 3 words could have meant. Had Simels said he was going to head shoot, murder, or hire a hit man to ‘permanently take care of’ the gov. witness, then those were actionable terms with little room for misinterpretation.

    Of course, he deserves jail time, although based on what I read he should not have been convicted of plotting to kill witnesses based on the possible misinterpretation of 3 words with wide-ranging synonymity.

  10. Well, it appears that these prosecutors were sore losers or paranoid about losing a case.

    Know any prosecutor like that?

  11. Anonymously Yours writes:

    “However, he could have had a score to settle or his boss or something along those lines and that was the reason for the prosecution.”

    Or, his boss could have been a criminal.

    And, Professor, the word “stomp,” hardly carries the same meaning as words like “neutralizing,” “eliminate,” or “destroy,” especially in street jargon (of which I admit to knowing very little).

    Even if the judge actually meant he was going to put on some storm trooper boots and jump up and down on the defendant’s head, he did not suggest he was going to kill him in front of the jury or anywhere else. In any vernacular, the word “destroy,” (used as a threat of violence) carries a significant suggestion of ending another person’s life.

    Perhaps the judge should have been a little more precise and politically correct in his statement, but the same as the jury seems to have understood what Lawyer Simels meant with the euphemisms he used, I’m guessing the defendant also understood exactly what the judge was promising him if he didn’t behave.

    In any case, all seems to have ended as it should, and Mr. Simels will probably be nicely tucked away for a few years in the gray bar motel, possibly with a boyfriend named Bubba.

  12. This case and many like it are besmirched with how far over the line can you go with out obstructing Justice in defending your client? It must have been fairly egregious for the Prosecutor in this case to prosecute the former prosecutor. However, he could have had a score to settle or his boss or something along those lines and that was the reason for the prosecution.

    On the other side, is how far can a Prosecutor threaten and intimidate or offer to reduce or dismiss charges against a prospective defendant if “they Cooperate?”

    I have had a case where a guy was charged with possession of weed. The prosecutor threatened to have children’s protective service step in and take the mans child away if he did not cooperate with giving the names of other criminals. The client did not and the child was taken, eventually put up for adoption and all this was for was a misdemeanor. All within the G-damn law. How far can the go before the Prosecutor is charged?

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