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Federal Conflict of Interest Defense

Successful Defense of a Federal Conflict of Interest Prosecution


The client was a successful aerospace engineer who had worked for the Government in charge of servicing Navy fighter jets. He got an offer to work for Boeing, which was the Company that the Navy was outsourcing the lucrative jet fighter servicing business to. Because he had control over the work being performed by Boeing, Government lawyers told him he would need the Government's clearance and permission before going to work for Boeing. A federal statute, 18 USC Section 208, prohibits Government officials and employees from engaging in "Acts affecting a personal financial interest". In other words, it is a federal crime for Government employees to accept money or employment from those with whom they were doing business, with some exceptions. Despite being warned, the client began the job with Boeing without getting permission from the Government to do so.

Criminal Charges Threatened

One day, while working for Boeing, the client was asked to attend a meeting. When he arrived at the conference room, the client was confronted by Boeing's General Counsel and investigators from the Navy. He was accused of lying in his job application to Boeing, told that he would be prosecuted federally for his actions and that he was going to jail. He was not represented by a lawyer during this interrogation session and made certain statements to the investigators. He was then placed on administrative leave, with pay from Boeing, pending an investigation.

My Approach

After a thorough review of the facts and the statute in question, I argued to the Government investigators that the client did not violate the law, had fully disclosed that he was seeking employment from Boeing and that others in his situation had received the clearance he was seeking. At most, this was a technical violation; he eventually would have gotten the clearance, I argued, and did not want to lose a good private sector job in a difficult economy. The investigators (and later, a prosecutor) were unmoved and demanded he surrender himself for arrest- they promised probably no jail time if he plead guilty to the felony and cooperated.

Successful Result

While the client greatly feared jail time (and who wouldn't?) and was on the verge of accepting a deal, I insisted that we call their bluff. I did not believe they could convict him with the evidence they had. I did not want the client to have a felony record. Further, the client had given nearly 30 years of service to the Government, had done tours of duty overseas and had awards and commendations from the Navy. I was prepared to call many witnesses on his behalf, including at least one person in his similar situation who had been given the clearance the client sought. After more than a year of fighting for the client and meeting with prosecutors to press the client's position, the Government decided not to charge the client with any criminal wrongdoing.

Final Analysis

This case required careful, yet firm and sophisticated intervention with United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida. The goal was to enable the client to obtain a just result, equal to a 'Not Guilty' verdict after trial. The client was confident enough in my abilities when he decided not to plead guilty to any crime, which was most gratifying to me.

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