Saturday, June 9, 2007

Crouching Lawyer, Hidden Attorney

U.S. Attorney Buchanan & Doctor Wecht

Prologue: Following the Wecht case is like watching a martial arts film. As you read the court papers, you'll witness gleams of razor-sharp prose and rhetoric from lawyers on both sides. I'm highlighting some quotes here today but later I may post some of the court filings themselves, as I did in the McNeilly case. E-mail me if you're interested, and watch for a new post when Wecht's lawyers file their response in court.)

here are major developments in the battle between federal prosecutors and lawyers for former Coroner Doctor Cyril Wecht. U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan has filed a court motion seeking sanctions and suggesting Wecht's lawyers deserve to be jailed or banned from practicing law in federal court.

She's accusing Wecht's lawyers of having:

• "repeatedly lied to the court, lied to the media, breached their ethical obligations as lawyers, violated the rules of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and flaunted the orders of this Court."

The motion charges that:
• "On or before June 6, 2007, Mr. Rush and Mr. McDevitt committed their latest, and perhaps most egregious, act of professional misconduct, displayed on the front page of the June 7, 2007, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette... In one fell swoop, Mr. Rush and Mr. McDevitt made improper extrajudicial statements about plea discussions and the merits of the case that were both knowingly false and substantially likely to prejudice the case, all the while violating some of the most basic and fundamental principles of professionalism."

At issue are statements by Wecht's lawyers Mark Rush and Jerry McDevitt, who are defending Wecht against public corruption charges. Wecht's lawyers claim the prosecution is political. In the latest court papers, Buchanan argues that the attorneys falsely told the Post-Gazette that her office was trying to reach a deal in the case because Buchanan was facing questioning by Congress.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Stallings signed and filed a sworn affidavit with the motion in which he not only rebuts the claims by Wecht's attorneys, but pledges "If I ever came to believe that this prosecution, or any prosecution I was involved in, was motivated by political considerations rather than justice considerations, I would resign from my post as Assistant United States Attorney."

(Click image to enlarge)

Wecht's attorneys tell me:

Mark Rush & Jerry McDevitt

• "We deny the allegations and look forward to putting forth the true set of facts before a tribunal about their conduct in this case."

They quote from a 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the Wecht case that strikes down local federal court rules limiting the speech of attorneys. That opinion says:

• "Here, it is undisputed that Wecht’s attorneys are willing to speak about the case and that Local Rule 83.1 limits their ability to do so. To the extent that an occasion arises in the future where defense counsel desires to make public statements about the case, we believe the media and public have a legitimate interest in those comments not being inhibited by overly restrictive limitations."

Wecht's attorneys also say:

"The very first time we speak, they run into court and ask the judge to throw us into jail and suspend our licenses to practice law in federal court."



Anonymous said...

What utter bull. Mary Beth Buchanan held a press conference right after the indictment and said Dr. Cyril Wecht was body snatching corpses for Carlow. Mary Beth Buchanan additionally had investigators contact all of Cyril's private clients and allege that Cyril was stealing form them through false billings. Mary Beth Buchanan also told the press that tax violations charges were pending against Dr. Wecht (even though no charges have been filed). So I guess calling someone a body snatcher, tax cheat, etc. is ok for the jury pool, but god help anyone that points out any issue with the prosecution.

Here is what is know. After a little under two years, Mary Beth Buchanan and her crack investigative team have not been able to quantify the amount of money and staff time allegedly misused by Dr. Cyril Wecht. This is per the newspaper coverage. Unless things have changed since the earlier news coverage. So all the court has is Ms. Buchanan's view/opinion that assets were misused, yet no dollar amount.

[Comment edited. Open this link in a new window for more information.]

...It is unfortunate that this circus of nothing will continue. If Mary Beth Buchanan can not prove their case, I guess she attacks the messenger.

Editor's Note: The unedited anonymous post makes assertions about topics referenced in the links below. I suggest you open the links in a separate new window for easier viewing.

Judge: Release agent's records, June 14, 2006, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Our U.S. attorney should resign, A Perspectives Essay By Thomas J. Farrell, March 20, 2007, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

dubvee 95 said...

Wecht not Whect....

Wecht's attorneys are worth listening to. However, those who have the potential to make the most news regarding this case aren't saying much at all publicly, I think.

Anonymous said...

Wecht's lawyers are not foolish. I do not think they would have made such accusations if they could not support them. Time will tell though. Round one has happened, can't wait until the response brief by Wecht's lawyers are filed.

Anonymous said...

I believe Mary Beth Buchanan is a very diligent and thoughtful prosecutor. I do not believe she would bring charges against anyone unless she believes the charges are warranted. A Judge and/or federal jury will make the ultimate determination.
Dr. Wecht's lawyers should concentrate on defending their client in a court of law. I believe their conduct is reckless and only jeopardizes their client's defense by making the situation more contentious and less likely to result in a negotiated plea agreement. They need to remember that their client, Dr. Wecht, is the priority.

Anonymous said...

Why should Dr. Wecht take a plea deal for something he did not do? Also, per the links to articles above, I do not share your belief of Ms. Buchanan as being either a thoughtful or diligent prosecutor. I feel the court case of US vs. Wecht become contentious the day Mary Beth Buchanan utilized a press conference to accuse Dr. Wecht of trading corpses. See the video at the attached link:

In the end, I agree that this case will be decided by a jury and a judge; however we are far from the end. By the time this case makes it to court, I fear that all connected (the prosecution, the defense, and the judge) will be damaged professionally through all parties (both prosecution and defense teams') collective actions.

Bob Mayo said...

How embarrassing. I typed it correctly 11 times, but incorrectly five times. Thanks, dubvee 95. I've taken care of it.

Anonymous said...

After reading the counter motion by Cyril Wecht's attorneys, it is clear that the motion by government representatives, Mary Beth Buchanan and Steve Stallings, is baseless. The motion is very direct in pointing out the lack of legal basis within the government's motion and the government's apparent attempt to smear the attorneys in the press.

Additionally, I strongly recommend that you read the appendix to Wecht's attorneys latest motion. Within a 50+ page letter from Governor Thornburgh (a former US Attorney General), Wecht's attorneys clearly outline the lack of basis for the original indictment and the known actions of the investigators which Wecht's attorneys allege are unethical.

All in all, the document is a very interesting view behind the curtain of Mary Beth Buchanan's office.