Financial crimes such as New York Scheme to Defraud and charges under the New York Martin Act are notoriously complex and difficult to understand and interpret. This complexity only becomes more significant when there are, as is typically the case with such criminal charges, hundreds of thousands of pieces of documentary evidence. In those circumstances, it is easy for prosecutors to make glaring oversights or unintentionally misrepresent the facts, and just as easy for criminal defense attorneys to let those negligent misdeeds go unnoticed. The question then becomes, “How does the Court deal with these prosecutorial errors when they become apparent.” This was exactly the question faced by by the New York County Supreme Court, Criminal Term in People v. Thompson, et al., 2016 NY Slip Op 50777(U) (N.Y. Co. Sup. 2016).
In Thompson, a white-collar criminal case involving a penny stock pump-and-dump scheme, the prosecutor presented numerous documents to the Grand Jury to obtain an indictment, including marketing emails to potential investors. Importantly, the prosecutor omitted highly relevant disclaimers that the defendants had included in those promotional emails, which were highly exculpatory with regard to the defendant’s intent. The Court found that the prosecutor should clearly have included the entire contents of those emails. While prosecutors are not generally obligated to to present all, or even any, evidence that is favorable to an accused person to the Grand Jury, the Court held that the prosecutor does have a duty of fairness to the accused which should prevent them from selectively omitting critical portions of a document that they are already presenting to the Grand Jury.
However, the Court in Thompson then gave the answer to the question above, which was that the indictment should still not be dismissed because, in this particular case, the Court did not believe that the prosecutor deliberately misled the Grand Jury, and those particular documents were just some of many that were presented, and not a critical part of the Grand Jury presentation.