Supremes Deny Rigas Appeal - Broadcasting & Cable

Supremes Deny Rigas Appeal

High court will not hear case
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The Supreme
Court Monday refused to hear the appeal of John and Timothy Rigas'
criminal convictions and lengthy sentences for fraud, bank fraud and
conspiracy.

The former
Adelphia owners/executives had appealed a ruling by the Second Circuit
upholding the conviction. They argued that the lower courts had ignored
and withheld exculpatory evidence and expert
testimony, did not make exculpatory evidence in a parallel SEC
investigation available tot he defense, and based the sentences on
factors beyond the executives' control.

The Rigas' argued that the Second Circuit had violated their "fundamental rights to be treated fairly and to

receive a sentence based on 'empirically verifiable' monetary losses." The court had calculated shareholder losses

from the Rigas' fraud at $100 million and based the sentencing accordingly. But the pair said that figure was

based on speculation and media accounts.

But based on
the $100 million figure, the sentences of the two were increased from
33-41 months to 15 years for John Rigas and 17 for son, Timothy.

They also argued that the government's dismissing of expert testimony had deprived them of potentially exculpatory

evidence from Adelphia's outside counsel.

The Rigas'
had support for their argument over the sentences from a number of
prominent cable figures. In an amicus brief, Cablevision Chairman Chuck
Dolan, Charter founder and former Chairman Barry
Babcock, C-SPAN founding Chairman Robert Rosencrans and several other
said they were concerned about the "arbitrary" nature of the sentencing.

They said
the court had handed out lengthy criminal sentences based, "vaguely," on
a decrease in the stock price without requiring any proof that the
Rigas' conduct caused the decrease.

"Allowing
prohibitively lengthy criminal sentences to be based in part on stock
price movements unrelated to the offense conduct erodes respect for the
fairness of the sentencing process," they said,
"and therefore undermines the deterrent effect of the laws underlying
those sentences."

The National
Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also wanted the high court to
take the case and resolve the issue of what obligation the government
had to produce evidence from a parallel investigation
or to give it evidence the government assumes it should already have.

The
government is not required to offer the defense exculpatory evidence it
already knows about, but the defense lawyers said the Rigas case raised
the issue of whether that extends to evidence the
Rigas' perhaps should have known--since it came from their company's
own outside counsel--but did not.

"Defendants
often rely on the government's obligation under Brady to disclose
exculpatory evidence. If Brady does not apply when the defendant could
have uncovered the exculpatory evidence on his own,
defendants must conduct more extensive investigations either to
discover the evidence themselves or to erase any doubt that they could
have discovered the evidence through reasonable efforts without the
government's."

The resolution of those issues will have to wait for another day.

The Supreme
Court did not say why it did not take the case--as is its practice
with denying cert--simply listing it among pages of mostly one-line
denials.

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