Informal Admonition of Federal Prosecutor After “Repeated, Blatant Violations and Misrepresentations” Called “Ludicrous”

DeptofJusticeIt has long been maintained by defense counsel that the Justice Department not only protected unethical prosecutors but has a culture encouraging unethical conduct in litigation. This problem is magnified by the tendency of courts and bar committees to look the other way in the face of violations or to confine sanctions to admonitions or verbal criticism. This week criminal defense attorneys are pointing to Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Snyder as an example of the problem. Snyder was accused of extremely serious ethical violations, but only received an admonition on one of the least serious acts of misconduct from the D.C. Bar. This follows a finding by a judge that Synder engaged in a comprehensive pattern of violations and contemptible conduct. The informal admonition if anything will reinforce the view among some federal prosecutors that they are largely immune from sanctions for withholding evidence or engaging in unethical conduct. Defense lawyers are crying foul at the handling of the case by Bar Counsel Wallace Shipp Jr. and his staff at the D.C. Bar. Shipp imposed the lowest possible sanction for what the court called a “history of repeated, blatant Brady violations and misrepresentations.” Additionally, the Justice Department itself has declined to fire Synder.

Synder was sanctioned for telling a judge that he knew of no psychiatric conditions related to a key government witness. However, Synder did have reason to believe that the witness had such conditions and never researched to confirm that the witness had had psychiatric treatment in the past. It is a very common scene where Justice Department attorneys are accused of willful blindness where they ignored indicators and simply do not ask questions or look for answers sought by a court.

The referral to the bar was prompted by a finding that Synder acted unethically in multiple prosecutions. However, somehow Bar Counsel Wallace Shipp Jr. found a way to focus on this one violation and confine punishment to an admonition. It was a result that prompted Paul Riley, who represented a defendant in one of the cases at issue, to publicly denounce the admonition as “ludicrous.”

Even without a complaint filed by other attorneys, Shipp is fully aware of the coverage of the claim of a pattern of violations that go beyond this one insular violation.

Snyder the the lead prosecutor in the trials of Dwight Grandson, Danyelle Adams and Jerome Holliway in 2006. Grandson was accused of a 2004 murder. Adams and Holliway were charged with trying to intimidate a witness who testified against Grandson.

That witness, it turns out, believed that she was going to be paid $25,000 for her testimony. Synder knew that the witness was testifying in expectation of this windfall but never told the defense or the court — a major violation of discovery rules. The Justice Department insisted, when this came out after the trial, that she was never guaranteed the money. Eventually, the Justice Department admitted that Synder’s violations were “non-frivilous” and reduced the sentences of the defendants.

In May 2010, Superior Court Judge Rhonda Reid Winston vacated Grandson’s murder conviction and ordered a new trial. The judge found that Snyder had a “history of repeated, blatant Brady violations and misrepresentations.” She specifically noted that his violations were not limited to the witness payment issue. That is a rare and powerful condemnation of a prosecutor. Yet, the Justice Department did not fire him and Shipp found a way to issue only admonition for a “history of repeated, blatant Brady violations and misrepresentations.”

The withheld information also included Snyder’s failure to disclose that the gun in the case was different from the one that Grandson was known to carry. The judge found that information by reading the grand jury transcript rather than Synder telling her.

Shipp does not even mention these more serious violations in the three-page informal admonition issued against Snyder. After brushing over the record created by the court of a pattern of misconduct, Shipp said that he felt that credit had to be given to Synder because “you took this matter seriously, that you cooperated with our investigation, that you have no prior discipline, that neither the court nor counsel were ultimately misled by your statements and that you accepted responsibility for your misconduct by accepting this Informal Admonition.” He took this matter seriously? Not apparently until a judge uncovered his violations and documented them, at least with regard to the gun evidence.

It is not clear what Shipp believes is required for a formal admonition, or even a suspension, when this is the result after a court finds a prosecutor to be responsible for a “history of repeated, blatant Brady violations and misrepresentations.” What is clear is that the message will not be lost on federal prosecutors that the range of punishment for unethical conduct by the D.C. Bar appears to run from dismissal to informal admonition.

Source: Legal Times

33 thoughts on “Informal Admonition of Federal Prosecutor After “Repeated, Blatant Violations and Misrepresentations” Called “Ludicrous””

  1. Profound premise ‘blhlls’;

    Though I’d hate to see a guilty party go ‘Scot Free’ due to prosecutor misconduct. Regrettably, it is a much greater evil.

    Sure would make for a great headline.

    Judge instructs jury prosecutor’s office is corrupt!

  2. Another option would be a special jury instruction.
    The prosecutor in this case has previously withheld exculpatory evidence and arranged for witnesses to testify falsely on many occasions. His office does not punish attorneys who engage in such conduct, and often promotes them. You are instructed to evaluate the evidence and arguments presented by the parties with these facts in mind.

  3. Vincent;

    Mostly, your argument bares true; except for the fact that separation of powers prevents. A Judge/court has the power of remedial purpose – including supreme authority “sua sponte” (on its own accord) to halt “Fraud on the Court” by “officers of the court”.

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled (In re Hazel Atlas Glass v Hartford Empire) that Fraud on the court via officers of the court is “THE” most heinous/ egregious violation there is – and thus the Statute of Limitation are expunged.

    All cases involving this prosecutor should take the sanction (as paltry as it may be) and utilize it for a Fraud on the Court case seeking overturn.

    That would force the prosecutors office to settle on all outstanding cases; and send a clear message that Snyder must go – and not to do the same in the future.

  4. BigFatMike hints at a great idea. I don’t think that the judge should dismiss cases because a prosecutor is unethical. That would punish innocent parties and the public. But the judge could refuse to allow the unethical prosecutor to appear before the court and make the D.A. send someone else. That would send a message.

    Of course, that would raise separation of powers issues. While the judicial branch has the authority to screen persons who appear as attorneys before the courts, the executive branch has the right to choose who it sends to court to prosecute a case. My guess is that, unless there was only one prosecutor in the jurisdiction, the D.A. would cave and send an acceptable prosecutor.

  5. BTW – Professor Turley;

    One of the nolle prosequi issues that would most assuredly garner great attention, are the issues of refusing to prosecute (and covering up) sexual assaults on campuses.

    Not only do we have the Penn State affair (also in need of a re-visit); but there’s the more recent case of USC. The students got together to protest.

    Vandy did the right thing (as you are well aware).

    It just seems very important, to discuss cases that don’t get proper “prosecution” – (as is the case instant in this very thread).

    Let’s call it like we see em – for what they are – cronyism & corruption.

  6. If it would please the Professor, might we ask for a specific discussion?

    It just seems apropos to all of this (and almost never properly debated) – the issue just as important (if not more so) – of nolle prosequi (refusals to prosecute).

    All of U.S. are well aware that the Too Big to Fail mentality is a perverted logic of the Above the Law mindset. Such as Mr. Blankfein not being kosher with Senator Levin.

    The Department of Justice will rush to make headlines out of a baseball player being queried on technical issues (where counsel and such advise the player that they aren’t “specifically” taking steriods; but the Feds felt that such remarks by Bonds & Clemens was Perjury) and the fact that Martha Stewart went to jail for lying to a federal officer.

    But Blankfein faces no charges and Senator Levin retires, instead!

    New York Senator Sampson went after corruption and found NO ONE CARED in the various systems of justice; so he simply gave up and joined the dark side (now under investigation/prosecution thereof).

    So, I would beseech you Dear Professor Turley;

    Let’s have a debate on what matters.

    They rich & powerful get away ‘Scot Free’ (or a slap on the knee)

    and the poor go to jail for years….

    (see Rolling Stone Taibbi’s article this past week on this very thing)

  7. Well, what do you expect when you have eric holder as head of the justice dept.? The example that all could emulate.

  8. I have not laserhaas,

    What’s up….

    FYI…. The first link you provided does not open in safari….

  9. Concur Anon- a creep, with rigging processes.

    LC in Texa;

    have you followed the Bill Lawless case in Georgia. He tried to utilize the Grand Jury process and they went after him in Gestapo fashion.

    Big Mike;

    We need a citizenry that cares enough to step up and try to make a difference. Judge’s can’t buck the powers that be – no more than you or I may or can – because of The BAR and review committees doing their evils.

    You should go to the websites and

    In NY, the very “discipline/ watchdogs” were engaging in fascists behavior. Good faith judges were having their chambers recorded and decent attorneys at law had their computers hacked.

    So that the “watchdog” could find a way to force the parties to have to do bad faith things.

  10. “, could a judge just declare the US Attorney to be of such non credibility that he/she dismisses any case brought to the court by this person?”

    This ain’t fraternity hi-jinks. This goes to the rule of law.

    Certainly DOJ is primarily responsible for maintaining standards and disciplining prosecutors.

    But why shouldn’t judges play a role in maintaining the integrity of the court and the judicial process.

    I think we would see a great change in a short period of time if judges asked a few questions of the prosecutor before each trial and then took strong action if there were any false statements.

    We need some angry, deceived judge to declare the DOJ an on going criminal enterprise.

  11. It is up to the people to change the way things are done! Oath of office is made to the people. The law of the land gives us a way to protect the people by Grand Jury. The Grand Jury is supposed to protect the people from over zealous prosecutors/District Attorneys and bad law. If you think about it, most of the people’s problems are created by the foreign BAR Association. What is common language about legal papers when you have to hire an attorney to decipher it. It is the American Duty to serve on a jury and be knowledgeable of your rights in doing so. Think about it, most politicians are or have been attorneys. Do we really need the BAR association?

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