For years, defense lawyer Tom Green has bucked the conventional wisdom in Washington law that says once defendants go to trial against the government, they can’t win.
“Many of them are so risk-averse, they just shy away from defending themselves,” says Green. “I have always tried to tell them that you can get a better result at trial than the settlement proposals offered by prosecutors.”
Green is still in the minority. One of the city’s most highly regarded defense lawyers, Robert Bennett, has tried very few cases in the last 20 years. But Green’s argument has picked up steam after he won a complete acquittal for former Puerto Rico governor Anibal Acevedo Vilá. Democrat Acevedo Vilá had been charged by a Republican-appointed US Attorney with election improprieties and tax evasion. Green’s victory came less than a month before the Justice Department’s announcement that it was dropping its prosecution of former Alaska senator Ted Stevens, who had been represented by Brendan Sullivan Jr. Sullivan lost the case at trial but accused prosecutors of misconduct and of withholding evidence.
Green says the two high-profile defense victories may embolden other defendants: “It should show people that there are circumstances where you can prevail against the government.”
Green, 68, had been working on the Puerto Rico case for three years. But there’ll be no more plane flights to the islands. His next two trials are scheduled to be held in Indianapolis and Oklahoma. He isn’t looking for sympathy.
“I like Indianapolis,” says the Minnesota native. “I’m very comfortable there.”
This article first appeared in the May 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.More>> Capital Comment Blog | News & Politics | Society Photos