The defense of Geoffrey Fieger (or How to win against towering odds)

As many of you know I recently defended Geoffrey Fieger, that “scurrilous rebel” who dared take on this administration, who, in fact, took them all on, from the President of the United States to the Supreme Court of Michigan—even Michigan’s Attorney General, and who, as might be expected, given the record of this administration for using the Department of Justice to rid itself of its political enemies, faced an indictment (the last official act of Attorney General Gonzales) containing ten felony counts including those catch-all entrapment charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.A federal court jury acquitted Mr. Fieger on all ten counts.

Even before the opening statements the federal district judge instructed the jury that what Mr. Fieger had freely admitted, namely, reimbursing his employees, his friends and family for their contributions to John Edwards’ campaign for president, was illegal. Yes, illegal. That should do him in since the only defense remaining was that he did not act knowingly and willfully when he made these reimbursements that were in excess of $100,000. Mr. Fieger, by consensus the most brilliant trial lawyer in Michigan (and perhaps in America), had run for governor and must have known very well what the law was and chose to violate it.

The government spared no horses to eradicate this pest once they were provided a starting place, which turned out to be one of Fieger’s former employees who claimed he was fired because he refused to play the reimbursement game. The government came down on their target with many questionable subpoenas to the banks of those who had contributed and been reimbursed, after which the government, in the dark of night, descended on the Fieger employees with 80 or more FBI and IRS agents, threatened them, interrogated them, hauled them before a grand jury for further interrogations that covered more than two years, and finally charged Mr. Fieger with the ten felony counts mentioned above.

They had him. They had his employees as their witnesses, nearly all of whom had been given immunity. They charged his partner, Ven Johnson, with most of the same felonies believing he would flip on Fieger to save his own hide. They had an air-tight case, one they visualized would produce the bloody hide of Geoffrey Fieger as a trophy for the prosecutors’ wall. What happened?

The Fieger team, David Nevin, my great associate, Geoffrey Fieger and myself will present a two-day seminar, “Anatomy of a Trial,” at my ranch on September 5, 6. The ranch is located nine miles east of Dubois, Wyoming, in the mountains. We will discuss the defense, the tactics, the overriding philosophy we teach at Trial Lawyers College in the defense of a criminal case. You will hear from Geoffrey Fieger on how it is to be a defendant in criminal case, to lose all control, to put one’s self into the hands of another lawyer. You will also hear from me and David Nevin on how it is to defend a fellow trial lawyer of the will and nature of Mr. Fieger. The trout fishing is good too.


  • September 4-7, 2008
    (with seminar presentations on Sept. 5,6)
    Thunderhead Ranch
    Dubois, WY
    Call 800.688.1611 to register
    Seminar fee: $2,500 – proceeds support
    Trial Lawyers College, a 501 3c non-profit institution


8 responses to “The defense of Geoffrey Fieger (or How to win against towering odds)

  1. Paw Paw,

    I am glad that in your greater years you have decided to share all of your strategies and techniques. Having just left the ranch, how I wish I could take this opportunity and come visit again. How I wish I could sit with you at breakfast discussing how the rivers in your backyard run all the way down near my home in Mississippi.

    I tend to feel that this event, unlike the 3 week college is more for “grown folks”. During the college you spoon fed us the meat and potatoes of how to find ourselves and develop our own trial skills. This event is more like a 4 course dining experience for the more sophisticated palate.

    Don’t forget to remind everyone who comes to bring chap stick and skeeter spray because I am still recovering from those yankee skeeters you have up on your ranch. They sure loved sucking on my Mexican blood.

    Guess they weren’t used to spicy and once they found me they were sure to tell their friends.

    In silence,


  2. Remy: Those Wyoming skeeters have evolved to be able to bite through all those layers of clothes people have to wear up there. While down here, skeeters only light on bare skin — the lazy bums.

  3. Yes,Gerry. I was afraid. Hardest thing I ever had to do.

  4. Todd, you did very well. It was hard but you stood up with the truth. I was proud.


  5. I hope this seminar is videoed-too bad the trial wasn`t.I also hope that somehow a juror is present to tell the attendees how the all powerful jury perceived things.
    I saw the trial.I saw Gerry Spence control the case-I saw the jury literally laugh at the Government`s presentation.That`s right-the jury appeared not to take the Prosecution seriously.
    The theme of a rich man secretly controlling an electrion by covert reimbursed contributions?The theme of an arrogant , abrasive, materialist doing anything he wants?These themes went nowhere.The spirit in the air of the courtroom was that Geoff Fieger was not guilty because the Government never proved that Geoff knew the reimbursements were against the law.
    It was astounding how effectively Gerry Spence sold this defense.By the end of the proofs, it seemed clear that an acquittal was very possible-and a hung jury was, at a minimum, virtually assurred…And then there was Gerry Spence`s closing argument……..Where do you go to find anything similar to this?……Maybe “The Devil and Dan`l Webster”…..In that trial, in the face of overwhelming evidence, the Defendant was freed…and “even the damned may salute the eloquence of Mr. Webster.”
    Can Gerry Spence`s trial genius be taught to other people?I wonder.But Gerry`s performance in the Fieger trial was unforgettable……A white haired old man with a twinkle in his eye-shuffling along transforming hate and fear into love and freedom.
    I hope everyone enjoys the seminar.

  6. Well, thank you Glen. I think we really don’t know, for sure, how we come off to others, to a jury especially. We look for honest feedback. It is hard to find. I thank you for your unsolicited view of the trial. I don’t know who you are, but I appreciate your comments– gives an old man some joy–maybe I’ve learned something in 80 years. If so, it’s about time, wouldn’t you say?


  7. A post script, Glen: Your hope that the seminar will be taped will be realized. I am told it will be.


  8. Good-it should be videoed.
    I`m so glad I saw the trial.Because there I saw a jury that was far from a somber hanging jury.Several membersof that jury were visibly chuckling and finding mirth in the trial.Laughing criminal juries-like this one-are trouble for Prosecutors.
    And these two Prosecutors just weren`t up to the task.Remember the testimony about the Lopatin firm engaging in reimbursements?Why didn`t theProsecutors cross the witness and bring out the ethiclal problems of the chief Lopatin partner?Remember when Geoff repeatedly responded to cross questions with “may I explain”?What a chance for a dramatic request to Judge Borman for a strong “yes or no” requirement to the witness.Geoff says he doesn`t know reimbursements are illegal?The Judge says reimbursements are illegal.And Geoff has repeatedly said that he`s the greatest lawyer ever-“the best there is, there was, or there ever will be”In quote-Geoff has said this.How is it that the greatest lawyer ever doesn`t know the law?
    Reimbursements are done all the time?Why didn`t the Government call experts to refute this?
    The weak Prosecutors were a part of the result.But I still say the light hearted atmosphere was created and sustained by Gerry Spence.
    Love remains as the world`s strongest social force.With that great closing argument Gerry suffused the courtroom with love.Although Geoff can get arrogant and money obsessed sometimes, Geoff knows what love can do in a courtroom.Like in the Thomas Hyde trial, when Geoff made the jury feel that Dr. Kevorkian assisted in Tom Hyde`s suicide to relieve Tom`s painful Lou Gehrig`s disease condition.I still remember a poem Geoff would read in the assisted suicide trials` closing arguments: “when (the patient) was born he cried and the world rejoiced, when (the patient) died, the world cried, but (the patient) finally found joy.”
    Like anybody would be, Geoff was very fearful as the jury deliberated.His whole career hung in the balance.But that jury was not going to convict-Gerry Spence had poured too much feeling and too much love into that courtroom.And what finally happenned?I hope Geoff understands and never forgets why he was freed.It`s explained in a book Geoff has occasionally read andoccasionally disregarded.The book says it all-totally explains the Verdict in these four words:
    “Love Casts Out Fear.”

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