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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mental Strength and Louis Manzo's Vindication

The much-ballyhooed New Jersey corruption cases in the Bid Rig investigation that used the repulsive felon-turned-informer Solomon Dwek took a symbolic big hit yesterday with a Newark federal court's dismissal of corruption and bribery charges against former New Jersey Assemblyman Louis Manzo

Louis Manzo should be an example of what a determined defendant, and his counsel John Lynch, can do to fight for one's legal innocence. But make no mistake: Manzo has paid a heavy price already.  Now, in a statement evoking memories of Raymond Donovan's plaintive plea after his acquittal in the Wedtech corruption trial in the late 1980s, saying "Which office do I go to get my reputation back?" Manzo is now quoted as saying, "Hopefully I can get my life back."

Too many people -- in both civil and criminal cases -- lack the mental strength to fight to win the case and just say, "I give up." This has harmful consequences. The more people don't fight back, the more we will have very bad cases brought, because prosecutors, regulators and plaintiffs will assume that the defendants don't have the will to fight. But the bottom line is that having integrity, a solid legal case (necessary, but not sufficient by itself), and the mental strength to fight a long battle can go a long way to preserving one's good name.

Linares' decision shows district judges are increasingly skeptical of prosecutors' cases and their ever-expanding interpretations of criminal liability to criminalize conduct, businesses or people they simply don't like. (Skepticism also is rising among New York federal judges, including Thursday's recent judgment of acquittal of Goldman Sachs computer programmer Sergey Aleynikov by a three-judge appellate panel including my Torts law school professor and former Yale Law School dean Guido Calabresi.) Frankly, I believe the Bid Rig investigations were started as a hit job (against both select Republicans and Democrats) and essentially made any candidate for political office a presumptive criminal. (See my January 2010 article on this dangerous presumption of guilt.)  

This is wrong and deters good people from running for office. Hmmm, that might be the purpose.

Eric Dixon is a New York investigative lawyer who counsels some clients on developing the mental strength to confront and survive an investigation, civil or criminal trial and the preparations for prison life for those facing imprisonment.   

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