A federal judge is expected to issue a verdict Friday morning in the trial of Charles F. Daum, a well-known local defense lawyer charged with conspiring to fabricate evidence and induce perjury to help a client.
Daum, 66, had waived his right to a jury, and U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler presided over a 23-day trial during which divergent portraits of the longtime defense lawyer emerged.
To federal prosecutors, Daum was an egomaniac who broke the law to improve his chances in court. Daum’s lawyers countered that he was a diligent lawyer who was the victim of his client, Delante White, 28, a scheming admitted drug dealer nicknamed “The General.”
Kessler is scheduled to issue her verdict at 11 a.m.
Both sides agree that in February 2008 D.C. police raided the Northeast Washington apartment of White’s grandmother. There, police seized 125 grams of crack cocaine, $2,000 in cash, a digital scale and a pair of Gucci boots.
White, who later admitted that the drugs and supplies were his, was soon indicted on a federal charge of unlawful possession and intending to distribute more than 50 grams of crack and faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted.
Daum, a gray-haired veteran of the local and federal courts, tried to work out a plea deal, but White rejected it, according to trial testimony.
As the trial neared that fall, prosecutors say, Daum became so eager to win the case that he directed White and the dealer’s girlfriend and relatives to create fake evidence and lie in court. The relatives and investigators, prosecutors said, staged photographs meant to show that the drugs might have belonged to someone else. And they forged a lease agreement to enhance the credibility of White’s girlfriend on the witness stand, prosecutors said.
At Daum’s insistence, prosecutors said, White’s girlfriend made a last-minute trip to New York City to purchase a pair of Gucci boots to make it seem like the ones police seized belonged to someone else.
“This is really all about Mr. Daum’s arrogance and ego and his overwhelming desire to win. This was a big case for him,” Justice Department lawyer Darrin McCullough told Kessler during closing arguments last week.
“Mr. Daum wants to win, and when the opportunity is there, this is what he does,” McCullough added, pointing to two previous incidents in which prosecutors accused the defense lawyer of similar misconduct, but in which he has not been charged. “As the kids say today, this is how he rolls.”
It is not clear whether the fake evidence and perjury played a role in White’s September 2008 trial. The jury deadlocked — 11 of the 12 jurors voted to convict him — and U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman declared a mistrial.
Eventually, federal prosecutors figured out what had occurred and charged White and his relatives in the scheme. White pleaded guilty to drug dealing, tampering with witnesses and obstruction of justice.
His girlfriend, Candice Robertson, and two of his brothers, Jerome and Christopher, pleaded guilty to charges ranging from witness tampering to perjury. They have not been sentenced.
As part of their plea deals, all three agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, who last year charged Daum and two of his investigators in the case. The investigators — Daaiyah Pasha, 61, and her 32-year-old daughter, Iman Pasha — were charged with conspiring to corruptly influence a juror. The three were also accused by prosecutors of attempting to cover up the scheme by providing “hush money” to White and his girlfriend.
“They knowingly and intentionally obstructed justice,” said federal prosecutor Tritia Yuen during the trial.
Defense lawyers for Daum and the Pashas countered that the prosecution’s evidence was too weak and ambiguous to convict their clients. They also argued that White, not Daum or the investigators, directed the conspiracy to protect himself.
“The core cooperators are completely devoid of any sense of morals or any sense of honesty or any sense of integrity,” said David Schertler, Daum’s lawyer, during closing arguments. “It is just as plausible that Delante White, not Charles Daum, was the architect of this scheme to fabricate this evidence and to have his family and friends perjure themselves at trial.”
White “is smart, he’s charismatic, he’s conniving, he’s manipulative,” Schertler said. “He’s a career drug dealer whose every move, whose every action, whether it’s in his drug-dealing life or in this case, has been [able] to get others to do what he wants to serve his needs.”
Schertler and the Pashas’ lawyers said that Daum and the investigators had no reason to participate in the scheme because they made little money for their work on the case. Daum was paid a flat $6,000 fee, and the Pashas worked for free as a favor to Daum, the lawyers said.
“Who had the motive, the means and the opportunity to do this?” Bernard S. Grimm, Daaiyah Pasha’s lawyer, said during closing arguments. “Delante White had to get out of jail.”