Seifert, Early Set To Open Defense

With Shona Seifert and Thomas Early’s criminal trial set to begin in New York on Tuesday, prosecution and defense have been at odds over instructions to the jury.

The ex-Ogilvy & Mather executives have pled not guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges arising from overbilling the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In a motion filed Jan. 4, the defense objected to a proposal by prosecutors that the jury be told “the defendant has a deep personal interest in the result of his/her prosecution. This interest creates a motive for false testimony, and therefore the defendant’s testimony should be scrutinized and weighed with care.” The defense proposed that the testimony should be judged “in the same manner as you judge the testimony of any other witness.” The tussling “probably means that the defendant is at least seriously considering taking the stand,” said Barry Pollack, a former federal public defender now with Collier Shannon Scott in Washington, D.C. Judge Richard Berman has yet to rule on the issue.

Seifert and Early’s lawyers have kept their strategy under wraps. One possible strategy is to admit the government’s evidence is essentially true but that the pair did not believe they were committing a crime. Even according to the feds’ paperwork, the New York shop enlarged its bills not to enrich its executives but because it thought it would lose money if it did not.

Calls to prosecutors and defendants were not returned.