Judge rules Florida vet can testify at Brooks trial

David Brooks leaves federal court in Central Islip. David Brooks leaves federal court in Central Islip. (Feb. 24, 2009) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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A federal judge ruled Thursday that a government witness who says David Brooks asked him for a pill to erase the memory of the chief government witness against him can testify.

Attorneys for the former body-armor magnate argued that Florida veterinarian Seth Fishman, who worked for Brooks, should be barred from testifying about the talk of eliminating the memory of Dawn Schlegel, the former chief financial officer at Brooks' DHB Industries, which had been based in Westbury.

Defense attorneys said Fishman had an agreement with Brooks, known as a Kovel agreement, which is equivalent to a lawyer-client relationship. Brooks is charged with looting his former company and its stockholders of almost $190 million.

Federal prosecutors at U.S. District Court in Central Islip scoffed at the idea that a veterinarian could be asked to assist in potentially criminal conduct and be covered by the sanctity of the lawyer-client privilege.

Brooks' attorneys argued that Fishman had been tasked to gather information for Brooks at the request of his former attorneys and had signed a Kovel agreement.

But Thursday, Brooks' lead attorney, Kenneth Ravenell, acknowledged that he could not locate an attorney to admit to the relationship or locate a signed copy of the alleged agreement.

Ravenell has previously complained that Brooks' attorney at the time of his dealings with Fishman, George Canellos, did not return phone calls to Ravenell. Canellos is now the head of the New York office of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Though U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert said she would allow Fishman to testify, she said she would have to decide how to limit Fishman's testimony.

She raised that reservation after Ravenell said he had information that Fishman may have used cocaine and was the subject of an FBI investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Caffarone replied that Fishman said he had not taken drugs in years and that if the issue was raised, Fishman could testify that Brooks had him supply marijuana to Brooks' children and that they had smoked it together.

Caffarone said the Florida FBI investigation involved Fishman's supplying human growth hormone to horse owners but it had ended without any charges. Brooks was one of the largest owners of trotting horses in North America, but he says family members now control his harness empire.

Ravenell declined to comment on Caffarone's remarks.

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