LOS ANGELES: "Here's the test," said a visibly frustrated District Judge Gary Feess, after the jury had been excused following Thursday's Douglas Dowie-John Stodder trial proceedings.
"Can I give the testimony?" If the judge could answer defense attorney's cross-examination questions, Feess said, "They've been asked too many times."
This "test" came after former Fleishman-Hillard Los Angeles VP of public affairs-turned-witness for the prosecution Monique Moret spent another full day on the stand, beginning with continued questioning by Stodder's attorney Jan Handzlik. Entering his eighth hour of witness interrogation, Handzlik carried on efforts to impeach Moret; he relied on topics as varied as her failure to mention LA DWP invoicing concerns to representatives from law firm Munger Tolls and Olson – which conducted a city-ordered investigation of Fleishman's billing practices in spring 2004 – to her use of the word "flabbergasted."
As several jury members appeared to count the triangles embroidered in the courtroom's teal carpet pattern, Handzlik reminded Moret that in February 2004, three LA DWP bills--October, November, and December 2003 – were returned to Fleishman by LA City Controller Laura Chick. She had demanded the bills be recoded and formatted, Moret explained, and resubmitted to the city with more detailed descriptions of the PR firm's work.
At that point, Moret recalled, she wanted to remove many of the illegitimately added hours from the bills. But Stodder – speaking on behalf of his corporate colleagues, according to Moret – told her not to change much, as significant alterations would raise too many questions.
After touching upon a February 2004 KNBC piece regarding allegations of "sloppy billing" in regard to Fleishman's LA DWP account, several agency emails, and Moret's desire for immunity, Handzlik's cross-examination ended abruptly when the judge called an all-attorney, out-of-earshot sidebar.
Questioning was immediately picked up, however, by a member of Dowie's law team, Michael Farhang, who also focused on damaging Moret's credibility.
Like the high-school government teacher every student dreads, Farhang challenged Moret's understanding of the Fifth Amendment, sprinkling his queries with the prickly addendum, "Isn't that true?" He inquired as to the professions of Moret's parents – her father and stepmother were both involved in LA politics – and asked about "the nature of being a PR professional."
"The client hires you to promote their image or message?" Farhang asked. In that role, he continued, would it be important to "present the image of a good communicator?"
"I was being myself," Moret responded, a little wistfully. "I hope that's what I portrayed."
Farhang is expected to resume his cross-examination Friday morning. Following Moret, former Fleishman administrative assistant Candice Campbell is scheduled to testify on behalf of the government.