(I am writing excerpts from my criminal trial.)
After the initial shock of being in the courtroom and seeing first hand what it’s like to be “on trial”, I had to own that given the circumstances, it’s where I chose to be. Now, I had to behave my way through it. I wasn’t quite sure what that looked like.
We were through the drama of opening statements and on to the prosecution proving its case. I recognized the Government’s first witness, Anthony, a Securities and Exchange (“SEC”) auditor. I remember smiling at him when our eyes met as he looked up from the witness stand. He didn’t return the smile and that was fine. I was well aware of the stress we were all under. He had been in my office for a few full days years prior. I told him the truth about the (venture capital) Fund to the best of my ability. As long as he told the truth, I was fine.
There were two key points that I thought were most relevant that came out of Anthony’s testimony. First, the Fund Committee had the sole discretion to invest the funds. Second, the investment was an extremely high-risk type of investment.
Here is some of Anthony’s testimony from the trial transcript on cross-examination:
Question. AND IN A HIGH END RISKY FUND LIKE THIS, WOULD YOU AGREE, AS AN SEC EXAMINER, THAT HIGH RISK MEANS A LOT OF THEM MIGHT LOSE.
Answer. IT COULD BE, YES.
Again on cross-examination, Anthony concurred that the offering circular was the controlling document and that it allowed the Fund Management Committee to invest in many types of investments.
Question. WHAT THEY SPECIFICALLY SAY IS THAT THESE INVESTMENTS ARE WITHIN THE SOLE DISCRETION OF THE INVESTMENT MANAGER
Answer. THAT’S WHAT THE DOCUMENT SAYS, YES.
The investors received an offering circular. Each investor signed a document saying that they received it, read it, and had an opportunity to ask any questions regarding the offering circular. The offering circular described that the investors could ONLY rely on what the offering circular said. It was the governing document.
Having an SEC examiner say that the Fund Committee had sole discretion of the investments as described in the offering circular was huge, I thought. The Government’s theory, in part, was that the Fund Committee couldn’t invest funds at our discretion. Having sole discretion should have been a significant puzzle piece in the argument that the investors knew what we were legally able to do.
I hoped the jury was listening.
Beyond a reasonable doubt, I kept repeating.
There were many other examples of Anthony saying what I hoped he would and being truthful. I don’t recall a single answer that I would have truly taken issue with. There were times when the question or answer may have been formulated in a way that wasn’t as clear or forthcoming as I would have liked, but that was my personal preference and in my untrained opinion, not detrimental to the case.
We later referred to Anthony as the defense’s unexpected expert witness. Anthony was truthful. Given his SEC stature, his testimony should have been held in high regard by the jury.
I had to be a courageous person in Court. It didn’t feel like a choice anymore. Every day, that is how I had to show up.
I can’t remember ever being so present at anything. I hung on every word anyone in the courtroom said. I didn’t understand some of the rules of the Court, procedures, and language, at times, but I started to put the pieces together. I took lots of notes. Observed. I won’t say that I didn’t miss anything but my senses were as heightened as they have ever been.
I wanted to learn all I could because I was sure that it would help prove my case. I had to do everything I could. No regrets.
I knew that I had to take care of myself during this time too. I had to eat reasonably, sleep well, and move a little to feel normal and take on this monumental task. As a Mom, I was accustomed to putting my kids first, but this time, maybe for the first time, I had to be seemingly “selfish”.
My Community was quickly shuffling at this time between the people that knew me before the prosecution and the people that I had met since. The people that I knew before the prosecution were divided into 3 groups: those who thought they knew me and decided the Government knew me better and our relationship was more less over; those who knew what was going on but questioned their own judgment and their deep-seated belief that the Government was always right and honorable; and lastly, the people that absolutely knew me and/or the Government and already knew that I was innocent.
The people that I met after I was charged were a combination of people that were casually interested in the case because it seemed “unusual” and those that got to know me as a human being that had integrity and wanted to actually see justice prevail.
I would get supportive emails and cards in the mail. I vacillated by being consumed by the sincerity of their deep, caring sentiment versus the distraction it could easily become if I read their sentiment more than once.
Occasionally, I would be asked how in the world this happened…and happened to me. I didn’t have a good answer. I wondered that same thing from time to time when I had a chance to look up.
Could a stranger observe you and determine the most important thing in your life?