The case of Lauren Stevens, the former vice president and general counsel of GlaxoSmithKline who was acquitted last month in trial that some observers thought never should have taken place, continues to be an embarrassment for the Department of Justice.
As Main Justice reported on May 11, Judge Roger Titus of the District of Maryland declared in his Greenbelt courtroom that it would be a “miscarriage of justice” to even let the jury consider the case, so in mid-trial he threw out charges of conspiracy and lying to the Food and Drug Administration over GSK’s marketing of a drug.
For months leading up to the trial, the Stevens case had attracted attention, since Stevens said she had relied on “good faith” advice of other lawyers in responding to queries from the FDA.
Now comes word that Rod J. Rosenstein, the U.S. Attorney for Maryland, had such reservations about the case that he refused to sign the 2010 indictment against Stevens, instead leaving the task to Sara Bloom, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Boston on behalf of Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney there, and Patrick Jasperse, an attorney in the Department of Justice’s civil consumer litigation division.
That first indictment was dismissed after the judge found that prosecutors had erred in instructing grand jurors. A second indictment was signed on April 23 by Bloom on behalf of Jack Pirozzolo, the first assistant U.S. attorney in Boston, and by Jasperse, again on behalf of West. Again, Rosenstein’s signature was absent.
“Ryan McConnell, a former federal prosecutor in Houston who is now a partner at Haynes and Boone, said federal rules require an indictment to be signed by ‘an attorney for the government,’” Sue Reisinger wrote in Corporate Counsel as she shed light on the behind-the-scenes bureaucratic disagreements over the case. “Typically, McConnell added, the ‘U.S. Attorney’s name appears on every indictment’ in his district, even if another government attorney signs it on behalf of the U.S. Attorney.”
Corporate Counsel said Rosenstein’s office declined to comment. Nor would the office comment to Main Justice.
John Wood, a former U.S. Attorney in Missouri, told Corporate Counsel that it is unusual for the Department of Justice to proceed with a case in the face of a strong objection by the U.S. Attorney. Moreover, Wood said, Rosenstein was a respected prosecutor at DOJ in the early 1990’s, so his opinion might have been expected to carry some weight.