The federal judge overseeing David Brooks' criminal fraud trial calmly asked the jury to leave the courtroom Wednesday, then lambasted lead attorney Kenneth Ravenell for what she said was unprofessional conduct and attitude before finishing with a warning of possible sanctions.
Ravenell had argued angrily with U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert at a sidebar about a ruling. She responded without raising her voice.
"I will not tolerate your continual assault on me personally that this is not a fair trial . . . and I don't care. This is a fair trial and you seem to be caught up with the need to have the last word."
Seybert said if Ravenell continues his disrespect for the court she could seek sanctions, which could include ordering an attorney held in contempt or reporting his or her conduct to the bar association.
When testimony ended and after jurors left for the day, Seybert addressed the defense and federal prosecutors, reading a portion of federal law that states "disobedience of a lawful [judge's] order" could lead to sanctions. "When a court enters a reasonably specific order . . . and the attorney violates the order by continuing to argue and not sitting down . . . there may be a basis for a contempt finding."
Ravenell and Brooks' other defense attorneys have continually asked for sidebars to discuss various matters during the course of the trial in Central Islip. The process has resulted in the trial now stretching over 15 weeks, with a loarge part of many days taken up with arguments and sidebars.
Seybert has almost uniformly granted requests for sidebar conferences by Brooks' attorneys outside earshot of the jury, and seemingly bent over backward to listen patiently to their arguments, according to observers who have been following the trial.
She also has often listened attentively to defense attorneys' counterarguments after she has made a ruling.
Ravenell declined to comment on Seybert's remarks.