Galleon Jury Quickly Agreed On Rajaratnam's Guilt

May 16 2011 | 12:44pm ET

Raj Rajaratnam never had a chance once the insider-trading case against him was in the hands of the jury.

In a pair of interviews, with The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News, given in spite of U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell's request that jurors not speak to the media, juror Leila Gonzalez Gorman said that the panel had decided that Rajaratnam was guilty by the second day of deliberations—deliberations that took an additional 10 days as the eight women and four men carefully sifted through each of the 14 counts against the Galleon Group founder.

"We all wanted to give Raj the benefit of the doubt," Gorman told the Journal. "I wanted to believe he was an honest man. How could someone so smart and rich already be involved in something so horrendous?"

Things got off to a slow start: Gonzalez said the panel sat silently in the jury room for a half-hour before getting started. But quickly, after a secret vote in favor of 56-year-old Bronx graphic artist Robert Jirmson as jury foreman—"he had a natural charisma and made everyone feel intensely comfortable," alternate juror Phillip Wedo said—talk quickly turned to the case before them, with several jurors quickly expressing the opinion that the hedge fund manager was guilty. And at no point, Gonzalez said, did any juror argue in favor of a not guilty verdict, although several sought to play devil's advocate.

"No one was arguing that he was not guilty," Gorman told Bloomberg. "Some people said, 'I'm not sure about this' and 'I'm not sure about that.' But no one said he's an innocent man at any point."

Still, it took a full week to agree on guilty verdicts for the five conspiracy counts, which the jurors handled before jumping into the nine securities fraud charges. But after the sixth day, juror Janette Kabat was excused from the jury for a medical procedure.

Holwell appointed alternate Wilson Thomas in her place, and ordered the panel to start over. The switch was a turning point: Prior to Kabat's exit, jurors were in mostly good spirits, joking with each other—including a running joke that stemmed from the wiretaps at the heart of the government's case against Rajaratman: Jurors would quote Rajaratnam's statement that something that tipster Rajiv Goel said was "highly suspicious" when another would do something kind. The also heartily enjoyed, and mimicked, Rajaratnam's declaration to Goel, who had passed him a particularly valuable tip, that he wanted to give him "a kiss on the cheek."

They also gave some of the lawyers nicknames: Lead prosecutor Reed Brodsky was "Napoleon," defense attorney Terence Lynam was "George Washington," the former because of his black hair and the latter because of his white.

After Kabat's exit, jurors began to snipe more at one another. Gorman said that on the Friday before they announced their verdict, she suggested that they might finish quickly. Another juror angrily objected.

"This is not going to be over today," she said. Things got worse on Monday, two days before the jury returned the verdict, with panelists arguing over whether to deliberate through lunch or to take a one-hour break. Some jurors became annoyed at Gonzalez's long bathroom breaks, in which she stretched and exercised.

Still, as in the first case, by the end of his first three days on the jury, Thomas agreed on guilty verdicts for the conspiracy cases—although Gorman says the other 11 members did everything they could not to let him know where they stood. By the following Tuesday, they were all but ready to convict on all counts, but agreed to sleep on it.

It took just an hour on Wednesday for everyone to agree that they were "done." And then, the newest juror, Thomas, suggested they hold hands and pray for the families of Rajaratnam and the other witnesses.

Gorman criticized the case put on by lead defense attorney John Dowd, calling the venerable veteran trial lawyer "tired," and calling his voice monotone. She said he "kept saying the same thing," which was a problem, because "it wasn't meaty."

A spokesman for Dowd called Gorman's comments "surprising in light of the many reports of John's vigorous style and the clear passion he put into the case."

By contrast, Brodsky was seen as "full of life" and "clear," "precise" and "convincing."

"The defense "tried to come up with enough evidence to prove he was innocent. I'm not saying [Dowd] didn't do a good job, but sometimes the truth overrides the lie."

Gorman also said she didn't count Rajaratnam's failure to testify against him. And she said the wiretaps, while important, were not as crucial as they have been portrayed.

"The wiretaps helped but they were not the most compelling," she said. "They were very, very helpful because you get to listen to the tone. It pieced everything together. It was a confirmation that this is definitely insider-trading."

In her interview with Bloomberg, Gorman, a second-grade teacher in the Bronx who lives in Port Chester, N.Y., called the defendant a "chameleon" who "knew how to pick his victims."

"He knew who was weak and who was crooked," she explained. "It's better to have weak and crooked people feeding you information."

No other juror went into quite the detail offered by Gorman. Juror Carmen Gomez told Bloomberg that the "evidence speaks for itself." Juror Freddy Vazquez echoed that statement, saying, "the evidence was there."

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