Defense attorney weighs in on possible Menendez re-trial

November 16, 2017 | Law & Public Safety, Politics

Criminal Defense Attorney Anthony Iacullo joined Anchor Mary Alice Williams and Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron to discuss some of the specifics of what happened in court Thursday and what we can expect to see going forward.

Williams: Did the mistrial declaration surprise you?

Iacullo: No, it didn’t surprise me because I think this trial had a lot of information that was made available as it was going on, vis-à-vis the juror that spoke to the press. That’s not something normally we have. Normally we’re reading tea leaves as to what’s going on in the room. I think we actually had an insight as to what was going on in the room, and therefore the result didn’t surprise.

Williams: Next steps, is a re-trial an automatic?

Iacullo: No, I don’t think so. Based on what we’re hearing right now and the breakdown in the jury room, I think if it was a situation where the defense maybe had one juror, potentially two jurors in their corner, then I think the government would come out, even right now, and say we’re going to re-try it. I think this is something that they’re going to think long and hard about, and with the passage of time we might not see this resurface as a new trial.

Aron: What do we know about the breakdown in the jury, I haven’t read that this afternoon.

Iacullo: Well, there was reports that at least, I saw that was out there that related to a split that was not normally how you see it with respect to the defense. Normally the defense, if they get one juror, two jurors, potentially that’s a lot. Here, from at least what I was seeing, it was more in the area of at least 50/50, if not the defense having upwards of 10 jurors potentially in their favor, and that’s a lot. That’s going more toward a verdict more in favor of the defense, never mind a hung jury and something they’re hanging onto.

Aron: You were talking about the juror who was excused last Thursday and spoke to the press and said we’re divided and I’m not sure how we’re going to solve that. The judge never told that juror not to speak to the press. Was that an oversight on the judge’s part, is that his policy? How do judges generally handle that?

Iacullo: Well, you know hindsight is 20/20, so looking back I think probably it’s a little of both. Normally, when we see something like that, and it is kind of rare, in all fairness, when a juror is excused in the middle of deliberations, and obviously this case had a lot of press coverage. It’s something that you may anticipate that the judge would take the step and say look we’re going to let you go, please don’t say anything to the press if anybody asks you or anything with respect to that. So I was a little surprised about that, but again this was a case that was very highly publicized and it’s not the normal course where a juror is let out during actual deliberations.

Aron: On the question of a re-trial, is there some kind of clock on that? Does the government have a certain amount of time to decide and declare?

Iacullo: My understanding is that they normally set a time frame by the judge and he’ll set a status conference where the attorneys will be back in court and they’ll have …

Aron: Sixty days? 90 days?

Iacullo: Something along those lines. He’s going to give it a little time for the dust to settle, for them to, especially the government, to go up the chain and make a determination from the Department of Justice, I would assume as to what the next step would be under the circumstances of this case.

Aron: This was a circumstantial case. There was never any smoking gun. Was this the right outcome, in your opinion?

Iacullo: Well, I think honestly both sides did a good job with what they had. The defense attorneys obviously. Whenever you get a situation where the defense is getting a hung jury and you’re walking out of a federal courtroom with your client next to you is always something that’s positive, especially after a verdict is returned and there’s not a guilty finding. I think it’s something where the defense is situated, I think it’s a win. I don’t think there’s any way to address it any other way.

Aron: And it’s a loss for the government. How badly disappointed do you think those government prosecutors are tonight after really a five year case?

Iacullo: No one likes to lose, whether you’re on the government side or the defense side, we’re all advocates for our respective client and they’re all professionals. I don’t think they’re happy. And honestly, I know the defense is happy, and it was true that it was 10 to 2 in favor of acquittal, I’m sure those defense attorneys are saying to themselves, ‘I wish we could have gotten those other two because they would have liked a not guilty right off the bat.’

Aron: Very quickly, how do you think the judge feels tonight, frustrated or satisfied that he did the best he could?

Iacullo: I think he feels he did the best he could. It was a long trial and a lot of issues here. I think he should be able to put his head on the pillow tonight and go forward with what he did.