LOS ANGELES: The key players in PR's highest-profile trial, former Fleishman-Hillard Los Angeles GM Douglas Dowie and SVP public affairs John Stodder returned to the courtroom of US District Judge Gary A. Feess to motion for new trials after being found guilty last May on wire fraud and conspiracy charges.
In calling for a new trial, one of Dowie's attorneys, Michael Farhang, argued that the prosecution's mid-trial introduction of Platinum Equity, an allegedly defrauded PR client not mentioned in the initial indictment, improperly expanded claims against his client and potentially confused the jury.
Farhang also suggested that "there may have been a certain lack of understanding" as to the legal problems that could emerge after a juror admitted to recognizing one of the government's critical witnesses, former Fleishman VP Monique Moret.
Stodder's lawyer Jan Handzlik took a more straightforward approach, reminding the court that Fleishman billing statement "write ups" presented as evidence may have been inaccurate at times, but were never intentionally falsified.
Handzlik also suggested that, on several occasions - particularly during the questioning of one-time Fleishman SVP public affairs Steve Sugerman by Assistant US Attorney Adam Kamenstein - the court failed to grant limiting instructions. That, Handzlik said, was "highly prejudicial to Mr. Stodder," whose tenure at Fleishman began following Sugarman's departure from the firm.
It was the second time that morning Sugerman had been a central topic of discussion. Earlier, the former Fleishman executive received three years' probation and 250 hours of community service for his role in the alleged over-billing scheme. Unlike Dowie and Stodder, however, Sugerman last year pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud and assisted the prosecution in their case.
Motions for new trials are due to be filed with the court this week, though Feess indicated he would reject both Dowie's and Stodder's requests. A sentencing date, originally set for Monday, October 2, has been postponed until later in the month.