November 11, 2022

Partners and co-chairs of Willkie’s White-Collar Defense Practice Group Michael Schachter and Randall Jackson were named The AmLaw Litigation Daily’s “Litigators of the Week” for a significant victory in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York for client Thomas Barrack, founder of Colony Capital. The high-profile trial involved allegations of illegal foreign lobbying, obstruction of justice and other charges against Barrack and his former assistant Matthew Grimes. After a seven-week jury trial, a jury acquitted Barrack and Grimes, finding them not guilty on all charges. Winston & Strawn partner Abbe Lowell, who represented Grimes, was also named a Litigator of the Week with Michael Schachter and Randall Jackson.

The publication profiled the honorees in a Q&A article about the stakes of the trial, their defense strategy, what other lawyers defending clients facing similar charges can learn from this case, and what they will remember most about the trial.

The case brought by the DOJ charged Barrack with operating in the United States as an agent of the United Arab Emirates, as well as conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and six counts of making false statements to federal investigators – significant federal charges that carried a maximum term of imprisonment of 65 years.

“The stakes for us as lawyers were also as significant as they come, as we carried the burden of defending an innocent man, who had been wrongly accused of crimes he did not commit,” Randall Jackson said. “The nature of the allegations themselves raised the stakes, as the government was essentially alleging Tom betrayed his country, and we knew the allegations alone could potentially prejudice any jury against us. And the stakes were even higher given the political backdrop—we knew it would be an enormous hurdle to demonstrate the truth to many people, particularly in a Brooklyn courtroom, where jurors may come to the process with a deeply negative view of anyone associated with the former president and who would be confronted with evidence of interactions with Middle Eastern leaders operating in cultures that were outside their experience.”

Michael Schachter also emphasized the partnership between him and Jackson, and collaboration of everyone on the team, including partner Casey Donnelly, associates Steven Ballew, Jordan Reisch, Brianna Weaver and Kathryn Garrett, and paralegal Ashley Moore.

On what other defense lawyers can learn from this case, Michael Schachter commented: “This is a case that never should have been brought, but what permitted it was the vagueness of the definition of what it means to be an “agent.” What does it mean to be subject to the direction or control of a foreign government? When does an executive doing business abroad cross the blurry line from doing what a client requests or desires to being “subject” to their “direction”? This is an area of the law that is easily misunderstood and therefore capable of misuse by prosecutors. Lawyers need to focus on compliance training in this area to help clients identify the potential land mines.”

Read more about the decision here.

Read The AmLaw Litigation Daily “Litigators of the Week” article here (subscription may be required).