The U.S. Attorney’s Office called the conduct of Doug Vaughan’s lawyer “baffling” after she filed for a protective order to suppress leaks of supposed “inside information” to the media, according to documents in U.S. District Court.
“In addition to impulsive and short-sighted, defense counsel’s course of conduct is baffling,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Greg Fouratt and John C. Anderson in a response to the motion filed last week.
The crux of the motion for a protective order was the public disclosure of the plea agreement between federal prosecutors and Martha Runkle, who was Vaughan’s chief bookkeeper for close to 17 years.
The motion was filed by Vaughan’s court-appointed lawyer, Amy Sirignano.
Runkle’s plea agreement was sealed and thus off limits to the public when filed Oct. 14, but was unsealed one month later by court order. Sirignano apparently didn’t know it had been unsealed.
The Journal used the newly public plea agreement and related documents as the basis for a Nov. 21 story that pointed to the likelihood of Runkle being a key witness in Vaughan’s criminal trial on fraud charges scheduled to begin in May.
In her motion for a protective order, Sirignano cites the Journal’s disclosure of the plea agreement as a reason to seek an end to “all leaks of non-public information by law enforcement, government and parties working on the related civil and bankruptcy cases.”
Vaughan is alleged to have scammed upwards of $70 million from 600 investors as part of a Ponzi scheme, an investment swindle in which money put up by later investors is used to pay false profits to earlier ones.
News coverage of Vaughan and his legal troubles has been a “media circus,” Sirignano says in the motion.
“The flood of publicity about this case over the last year has undoubtedly affected the New Mexico jury pool,” she says. “Mr. Vaughan questions seriously whether it is now possible for him to receive a fair trial.”
The U.S. Attorney’s response says Sirignano is obviously laying “the groundwork for further litigation arising from media reporting.”
The jury selection process has proved to be reliable guarantor of a fair trial, it says.
“If Jeffrey Skilling and Ken Lay can get a fair trial in Enron’s headquarters city of Houston, if Lewis “Scooter” Libby can be fairly tried down the street from the White House in which he worked, and if John Gotti Jr. and Sr. can be fairly tried in New York City,” the response says, “then Doug Vaughan can receive a fair trial in Albuquerque.”