The judge in a foreign bribery trial in Washington, D.C., federal court has declared a mistrial after the jury reported it had deadlocked.
“I simply see no other option than to declare a mistrial,” U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said after the jurors told him they were unable to come to a unanimous decision.
The jury deliberated for ten days after a three and a half month trial in the Justice Department’s largest Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prosecution in the history of the 1977 statute.
The trial opened with six defendants, who were among 22 suppliers of arms and other military products arrested in January 2010 for allegedly agreeing to bribe the minister of defense of Gabon in exchange for contracts to equip the West African country’s presidential guard. The deal was run as a sting by an informant and undercover FBI agents and no members of the Gabonese government were involved.
One of the defendants, Steve Giordanella, was acquitted last month when Judge Leon threw out an overarching conspiracy charge that had tied him to the case. Two other defendants, R. Patrick Caldwell and John Gregory Godsey were acquitted yesterday in a partial verdict.
The three remaining defendants — siblings John and Jeana Mushriqui and Marc Morales, Godsey’s business partner– were still awaiting their fates on Tuesday when jurors sent another note to the judge saying there had been no movement during deliberations.
“We find ourselves unable, on the basis of the evidence admitted in the case, to reach any further verdict,” the jurors’ note said. “To reiterate, there is no possibility of any further unanimity.”
Nine jurors said they believed the Mushriquis were not guilty, and three said they found the brother and sister guilty, the jury foreman said in court.
For Morales, 10 jurors voted not guilty and two found him guilty.
The jury foreman approached Morales in the hall afterward. “I’m disappointed we could not provide you certainty,” he said to Morales, shaking his hand.
Several jurors spoke with prosecutors and defense attorneys at length in a closed courtroom following the declaration of a mistrial, sharing their impressions of the government and defendants’ cases. All twelve jurors declined to speak with the media as they left the courtroom.
“I am hopeful that, after considering the number of jurors who voted for acquittal and their thoughtful comments about their deliberation, Department of Justice officials will conclude that this case should be dismissed,” Steven McCool of Mallon & McCool LLC said after speaking with jurors.
David Krakoff and Lauren Randell of BuckleySandler LLP, who represented John Mushriqui; and Charles Leeper of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, who represented Jeana Mushriqui, declined to comment while a possible retrial of their clients is pending.
“We appreciate the jury’s service in this case,” a Justice Department spokesperson said. “Given the pending nature of related cases, we would decline to comment further at this time.”
The trial that ended today is the second for defendants arrested in the Gabon sting. A first trial of a group of four defendants last year also ended in a mistrial. Three defendants, Jonathan Spiller, Daniel Alvirez and Haim Geri, pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government.
The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves of the District of Columbia and Justice Department Criminal Division Fraud Section Assistant Chief Glenn Leon and senior trial attorney Laura Perkins.
Updated: 6:32 p.m. with statements from the Justice Department and defense attorneys.