Richard Bistrong Reports To Prison
This Johnny Cash song is an appropriate background song for this post.
Following a lifetime of lying , cheating and stealing, Friday night it all caught up to Richard Bistrong and he turned himself in to serve his 18 month prison sentence at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, PA. The Federal Bureau of Prisons makes that information available to the public here and calculates his release date as January 15, 2014.
Bistrong, as you know from previous FCPA Professor posts, as well as articles in the New York Times and Washington Post, became a member of the team with the FBI and the FCPA unit at Main Justice – then led by Hank Bond Walther – to concoct what will perhaps go down as the most ill conceived and greatest failure ever in the enforcement of U.S. criminal law: the “Africa Sting” case.
Bistrong’s lifetime of drug transactions, bribery, tax evasion, prostitution crimes, predilection for “hard core pornography” (you can’t truly appreciate the impact of that phrase until you hear Mike Madigan from Orrick articulate it to a jury), is second to none and turned out to be merely a lead-in to his staggering moral transgressions and self-inflicted personal failures, all of which came out during the trial or in trial preparation.
Against this backdrop, it was not without drama when sometime in November 2011 during the second trial , after two years of pretrial litigation and DOJ’s unsuccessful prosecution that resulted in no convictions and a hung jury in the first Africa Sting trial (during which the government elected to not call its star witness), Bistrong entered the court room to begin a month of testimony. It really was “all eyes” in the court room on the person about whom everyone had heard so much, and you could hear a pin drop. After all, in a text message later introduced into evidence Bistrong wrote to Chris Farvour, his FBI handler, “tell Hank (Bond Walther) that I’m an ace on cross exam!”
I remember that after a real short time it became apparent that Bistrong was the most narcissistic person I had ever heard. It wasn’t just that he could not tell the truth – I think everyone expected that eventuality – it was that he seemed to think he was above criticism and above everyone else. He was smug and self-righteous. He didn’t seem contrite at all. He wanted to argue. He gave the impression that he felt he was smarter than everyone else, especially than the lawyers cross examining him. He gave a false portrayal of himself on the witness stand, and tried to get the jury to believe he was someone they could trust. He tried to make forced eye contact with the jurors, and it was uncomfortable to watch him do so. Heck, why wouldn’t he think he could pull off that manipulation one last time? He had been doing it his whole life, including recently. But it was perplexing, because Bistrong’s words, tone and demeanor recorded on tape and in text messages with his BFF’s in the FBI could not be reconciled with the Bistrong that he tried to sell while on the witness stand. After a while many of the jurors turned away from him and couldn’t’ look at him even as he testified. Those who looked at him to me seemed to be interested in him more as a psychology case study than as someone whose testimony they could ever trust. As the jury foreperson wrote in his FCPA Professor guest post (here), “…more than one juror voiced concern that it would be unjust for the defendants in this case to be convicted when the government relied so heavily on Mr. Bistrong who freely admitted on the stand more illegal acts than the entire group of defendants was accused of…” and “the jury with near unanimity found nearly all of the prosecution witnesses to be evasive and combative.” In the end, Bistrong’s venality and greed got the best of him.
I can’t imagine a more talented, committed, and passionate group of defense attorneys than the ones with whom I had the honor of trying the Africa Sting case. It was a remarkable experience to watch them shine throughout, and vindicate their clients. Notwithstanding all that legal talent, however, the most concise, poignant and important summary of this case came from the bench. As United States District Judge Richard J. Leon wisely cautioned: “We certainly don’t want the moral of the story to be: Steal big. Violate the law big. Cooperate big. Probation.”
I hope that everyone on the Bistrong team understands that.
Reading Bistrong’s recent comments in a Forbes article (here), it is clear Bistrong maintains the belief that he is a “victim” and “fallen hero” who did something noble. In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth. I hope that prison is the place where Richard Bistrong is able to finally right his ship, come clean with himself and learns how to be truthful, and that he comes out prepared and able to be a productive member of society, during his three years on federal supervised release and beyond.