WASHINGTON — Three former bankers at GE Funding Capital Market Services, Inc., convicted of fraud and conspiracy for rigging municipal bond investment bids, were released from prison following a Nov. 26 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturning their guilty verdicts.
A three-judge panel in New York issued the order reversing their May 2012 criminal conviction by a federal jury. Judge Victor Marrero, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, ordered Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg, and Peter Grimm to be released from prison the following day before Thanksgiving.
The appellate court has not yet released a written opinion stating its reasons for reversing the convictions, but one could be available in the coming weeks.
Lawyers for the newly-freed men hailed the decision and one said he suspected the court found the statute of limitations had expired.
The decision could have implications for others convicted of rigging bids for guaranteed investment and other contracts, some of whom have yet to be sentenced. Attorneys said that it is impossible to know how wide or narrow the implications might be without seeing the court’s opinion.
The order overturning the conviction did not state that the case should be remanded to the lower court for a new trial, a possible indication of a statute of limitations issue.
“It was a good result,” said John Siffert, an attorney at Lankler Siffert & Wohl LLP who represented Goldberg. “It appears the case is over for our client. He gets to move on with his life.”
Walter Timpone, a lawyer at McElroy, Deutch, Mulvaney & Carpenter LLP who represented Carollo, said his client’s release is a “great” conclusion, for Carollo, who was doing poorly in prison, Timpone added the court was likely mindful of getting the men out of jail in time for the holidays,
“He’s home and had Thanksgiving with his family,” Timpone said.
Goldberg had been sentenced to four years in prison and fined $90,000, and Grimm and Carollo were each sentenced to three years in prison and fined $50,000.
Their appeal rested primarily on an argument that the government did not move quickly enough to indict them after the alleged fraud, and also on what the defense team labeled as “unfair incrimination” by British citizen Adrian Scott-Jones. Scott-Jones testified at the trial in April 2012 to discussing fraudulent conduct with Goldberg during a dinner at a Japanese restaurant, but later left the courthouse during a break and never returned. Defense lawyers said he tried to commit suicide and ended up in the hospital. In appeals documents, lawyers argued that Scott-Jones’ disappearance left them unable to contest some of his testimony.
Jurors were instructed to disregard Scott-Jones’ testimony, but defense lawyers argued it was still too prejudicial. The defense further argued that the five-year limitation for wire fraud expired in July 2005 and the six-year limitation for conspiracy expired in July 2004. The men were indicted in July 2006. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers argued that the fraudulently-awarded contracts included interest payments that harmed the public well after the turn-of-the-millennium bidding, invalidating the statute of limitations defense.
Timpone said he thought the appeals court judges seemed troubled by that during the oral argument last month, but agreed with other experts that it would be difficult to draw a conclusion about the ramifications of the decision without seeing the opinion first.
“We’re all reading tea leaves,” he said.
DOJ spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said the agency is also awaiting the opinion before weighing in.