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Lawyer, judge spar in Quattrone trial

Frank Quattrone's attorney Tuesday complained that the judge presiding over the former banker's obstruction of justice trial is "hostile to the defense" and showing his bias to jurors with dour body language.
/ Source: Reuters

Frank Quattrone's attorney Tuesday complained that the judge presiding over the former banker's obstruction of justice trial is "hostile to the defense" and showing his bias to jurors with dour body language.

Attorney John Keker and U.S. District Judge Richard Owen have a strained history, with the judge having caustically described the lawyer during an exchange in the first trial as a New York City "fire hydrant" that goes "on and on and on."

That first trial of Quattrone -- once a star investment banker with Credit Suisse First Boston -- ended in a mistrial last October after the jury could not agree whether he interfered with investigations and tampered with witnesses in late 2000.

Keker's complaints Tuesday came after the judge denied a request to have one chart allowed into evidence, a decision the lawyer called "absurd." The second trial of Quattrone began last week.

After the ruling, Keker expressed his displeasure with the judge for interrupting defense lawyers during cross examination, saying many of the interruptions had come before prosecutors even had a chance to object to a certain line of questioning.

Keker then said: "The court's facial expressions -- puffing your cheeks, leaning on your hands -- conveys to me and I believe the jury that you are extremely impatient and hostile to the defense."

"You remark about my interruptions is only because I'm trying to take the trial forward fairly and expeditiously," the judge responded, before adding "I can't accept that request."

Federal prosecutors also doubted Keker's assessment. "I don't believe that's an accurate description of the court's conduct during the trial," Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Peikin said before the jury was brought back into the courtroom.

Prosecutors questioned three witnesses Tuesday, building their case that Quattrone ordered his staff to destroy documents subpoenaed as part of a 2000 probe into how shares of hot stock offerings were allocated at CSFB, where Quattrone ran the tech investment banking group until he resigned last year.

At issue in the case is an e-mail that Quattrone endorsed and forwarded that informed staff it was time to "clean-up" their investment banking files. The e-mail was originally written by Richard Char, and was sent at a time when a grand jury and securities regulators were looking into whether CSFB was unfairly doling out shares of popular stock offerings to favored clients.

Quattrone has said he was unaware of any subpoenas relating to files in his investment banking group and sent the e-mail in keeping with the bank's policy on destroying old documents.

The e-mail was displayed prominently for jurors on Tuesday, when a former high-ranking CSFB attorney, Kevin McCarthy, testified that he first learned about its existence on Dec. 5, 2000, the day after it was originally circulated.

McCarthy, who knew about the subpoenas, testified that he contacted Char, who wrote the original e-mail, and informed him that "we would have to send something to clarify it and correct it."

That same day, however, Quattrone forwarded Char's e-mail with his endorsement. CSFB's legal department did not send out a note telling staff to retain documents until Dec. 7.