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KCCBA discusses criminal defense techniques for organized crime

October 16, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Kings County Criminal Bar Association and its president Michael Farkas (left) welcomed (left to right) Susan G. Kellman, Jerry Capeci and Gerald J. McMahon for a CLE seminar on trial tactics in an organized crime case. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese.
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The Kings County Criminal Bar Association (KCCBA) hosted the nation’s leading expert on organized crime and two veteran criminal defense attorneys for its Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar titled “Proffer This: Trial Tactics in an Organized Crime Case” at the Brooklyn Bar Association Thursday night.

Journalist Jerry Capeci, who covers the mafia in his column “Gang Land;” Susan G. Kellman, who has tried over 100 felony cases in federal court; and Gerald J. McMahon, who KCCBA President Michael Farkas referred to as the “premiere organized crime defense attorney in New York City,” each spoke about the best methods for attorneys to try organized crime cases.

“This is a continuation of our series of defense lawyer-centric CLEs after a string of happy-we-love-the-DA CLEs,” Farkas said. “We have three of the nation’s foremost experts here to discuss trial tactics in organized crime cases.”

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Capeci spoke first, giving tips as a non-lawyer on what he thinks are good strategies in defending organized crime members. His No. 1 tip: always push for a quick trial. Other tips included getting clients out on bail, informing the press of any personal issues the client is dealing with that might hurt their chances at trial, taking a plea, but making sure it’s a guaranteed plea, and humanizing the client.

“Jurors like to hear about [the client’s] problems,” Capeci said. “The more you can humanize them, the better chance you will have. And always, always push for a quick trial.”

McMahon titled his portion of the CLE seminar “Rat Poison” and advised fellow defense lawyers on how to properly cross examine cooperating witnesses.

“The rats can be done. The juries do not like them. Focus on the things that make them unique. There was one rat who spent $1,700 on a pair of loafers. A pair of loafers. This is a Brooklyn jury. What are they going to think about $1,700? There is a lot that can be done and it’s a lot of fun.”

Finally, Kellman discussed some of the problems government agents have with cooperating witnesses and then suggested ideas for how they can actually be used against the government.

“We all know about rat poison and we all know how willing a government cooperator is to please the government,” she said. “They will do and say everything as long as they can couch it with the expression they’re tutored in, which is ‘I’m only telling the truth, I don’t get my break unless I tell the truth.’”

 


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