As former leaders of Dewey & LeBoeuf face charges of grand larceny and fraud, one criminal defense attorney said defending such a case is challenging in the face of damning e-mails that prosecutors are presenting as key evidence.

“I’ve defended cases with bad e-mails, and it’s tough because it’s physical,” said Charles A. Stillman, Managing Partner of Ballard Spahr Stillman & Friedman, the New York office of Ballard Spahr. “You can cross-examine the witness. You can’t cross-examine an e-mail.”

“Those are fingerprints,” Mr. Stillman added. “A jury is going to decide whether those e-mails reflect a criminal state of mind, or were just sent with a degree of foolishness.”

The indictment by the Manhattan District Attorney includes examples of e-mails that the attorneys sent related to allegedly fraudulent conduct, such as, "Can you find another clueless auditor for next year" and "We came up with a big one. Reclass disbursements." The defendants have pleaded not guilty.

“When you send an e-mail, it’s there forever. They never disappear. So you’re telling clients all the time, don’t say stupid things in e-mails,” Mr. Stillman said.

Related Practices

White Collar Defense/Internal Investigations