As several of you have pointed out, Geoffrey Fieger and his law partner, Ven Johnson, were acquitted yesterday of all charges against them. While there was no question that Fieger and Johnson had reimbursed their employees for donations to John Edwards in 2004, the government did not prove that Fieger and Johnson intended to evade campaign finance laws, and therefore did not prove that they had broken the law.
I think the government lost this case for a number of reasons. First, Fieger’s team made a reasonable argument that the law in question doesn’t explicitly forbid reimbursement of employees; it only forbids giving in another person’s name. This made Fieger’s claim that he had researched the law and determined he could do what he did–reimburse employees–without believing he was evading the law.
Just as importantly, the government repeatedly put witnesses on the stand that severely damaged its case. For example, it put Jeffrey Danzig on the stand only to have him testify about how common reimbursed donations are in the legal community.
“I’ve done exactly what I’ve done at the Fieger firm that’s the subject of this litigation on numerous occasions through my legal career at another firm,” Jeffrey Danzig testified on direct examination.
Fieger and partner Vernon (Ven) Johnson are charged with breaking campaign finance laws. Money was collected from employees, friends, relatives and other for the 2004 John Edwards presidential bid and the donations were then reimbursed by law firm checks.
The times he’d done the same thing while at the Lopatin-Miller law office were “too many to count,” Danzing said in later cross-examination.
Danzig also discredited the government’s key witness, Jay Humphrey.
Finally, though he’s a blowhard, Fieger did not botch his own testimony, and apparently convincingly argued that he would never do anything that might ruin his career. Which seems to be why the jurors voted not to convict.
“I think it was the lack of evidence that got us to our decision,” said juror Krista First 24, an accountant from Adrian.
Juror Maria Kruger, 42, a college student from Clinton Township, said there was no logical explanation for why Fieger and Johnson would commit career suicide over political contributions.
“I can’t imagine you would intentionally destroy your lives and the lives of the people around you,” she said.