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Handwritten note at Brooks trial draws suspicion

David Brooks leaves federal court in Central Islip.

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

The David Brooks fraud trial took another bizarre turn Monday when a federal marshal reported that the body-armor manufacturer had attempted to conceal a handwritten note amid typewritten legal papers that possibly could indicate an attempt to influence jurors.

The legal papers had been given to Brooks by one of his paralegals. After reading the note, Judge Joanna Seybert questioned whether the note was an indication of "an attempt to influence others . . . an attempt to perhaps . . . influence jurors" or had a more innocuous meaning.

Seybert said she wanted to ensure that the trial would not "be jeopardized" by tampering." The contents of the note were not disclosed in court, but it appeared to be written in a cryptic shorthand that could be read in a variety of ways, including containing inside information as to the jurors' deliberations in the case, Brooks' involvement in the harness-racing business, or some other matter, according to several sources familiar with the wording.

The note flap touched off an unusual situation in which FBI agents unrelated to the Brooks case entered and confiscated the contents of the wastepaper basket Brooks used and issued a subpoena to Brooks' paralegal, Aaron Hendel.

Also entering the courtroom were several assistant United States attorneys not involved in the Brooks case who would presumably carry out any investigation into the note. Seybert demanded to know from Brooks' defense attorneys who wrote the note and whether it involved legal communications to which he was entitled.

Brooks' lead defense attorney, Kenneth Ravenell, attempted to assure Seybert that the note involved proper legal matters. But when Ravenell said he did not know who wrote the note, Seybert asked how he could be sure it was a legal document.

Seybert asked Ravenell to determine by Tuesday who authored the note. The flap in the courtroom took place outside the hearing of the jury, which has been deliberating the case since the beginning of the month. Previously, Brooks has been transferred from a jail in Nassau to one in Queens after he was found to have concealed tranquilizers in his clothing. He has also been held in contempt for refusing to disclose the origin of an e-mail purportedly about the sex life of a key government witness. Prosecutors suggested the e-mail was a forgery.

Brooks is currently under investigation for how he obtained other tranquilizers hidden in pens. In that instance, Seybert banned from the courtroom another paralegal, Jil Klinkert, Brooks' girlfriend, and Jeffrey Brooks, his brother. Brooks is charged with spending millions of DHB Industries' dollars on personal expenses and defrauding the Westbury-based company's stockholders of $185 million.

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