In unusually strong language, the federal judge overseeing the trial of former body-armor magnate David Brooks on Friday accused his defense of engaging in "unacceptable" tactics that smacked of McCarthyism in questioning the intimate personal life of the government's key witness.
U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert said in an order filed late Friday that the lead defense attorney, Kenneth Ravenell, on Thursday seemed to be smearing Dawn Schlegel without proof as he "repeatedly insinuated that he had e-mail which proved that Ms. Schlegel lied under oath" about her extramarital sex life. The judge said she wanted proof the e-mail actually exists.
Schlegel, the former chief financial officer of Brooks' then Westbury-based DHB Industries, has given lengthy testimony in federal court in Central Islip supporting government allegations that Brooks engaged in large-scale fraud.
Ravenell was attempting on Thursday to undermine Schlegel's general credibility as a witness by trying to show that she lied when she said she'd had only one night of intimate relations with a co-worker. The e-mail supposedly showed the relationship was of greater duration, Ravenell suggested as he repeatedly questioned Schlegel.
But Seybert said Ravenell "refused to show" the e-mail to Schlegel or to government prosecutors, as he should have properly done, "and made no effort to admit the e-mail into evidence"
"This is unacceptable, and more akin to Sen. Joseph McCarthy's famous speech in Wheeling, West Va., than anything that should take place inside a courtroom," Seybert wrote.
In a footnote, she said she was referring to the speech in which McCarthy waved a paper that he falsely claimed listed 205 Communists working for the U.S. State Department.
Seybert ordered defense attorneys to produce the e-mail by Monday.
Reached by phone Friday, Ravenell said he had not read the order and could not comment on it. But he noted: "We will abide by all orders of the court, as we always do."