A federal judge in Manhattan has reduced one count of a drug conviction and accused prosecutors of using “misleading” tactics in a case that former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara helped try in February, just before his firing earlier this year.
U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken said the government didn’t prove that accused dealer John Pauling’s heroin dealing involved 100 grams or more, which would carry a 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, but used misleading charts during summation to get jurors to convict on that charge.
The judge said prosecutors also broke a promise to let the defense see the charts in advance. “The Government made a commitment that it did not keep,” Oetken wrote. “Moreover, the Court is convinced that the use of the charts made a difference in the jury’s verdict.”
Bharara served as so-called second chair in the February trial, while younger prosecutors handled the questioning. It was the only case in which he served as a trial lawyer during his tenure as U.S. attorney in Manhattan.
Pauling was convicted on seven of eight counts, but has not yet been sentenced. Bharara, who is now a scholar in residence at New York University Law School and a popular tweeter, referred a request for comment to the U.S. Attorney’s office, which declined to comment.
Oetken issued his decision last week.