Rajaratnam's Team Has Hollywood Pedigree; Jury Pool Has Excuses

Raj Rajaratnam’s defense team should play up their client’s lack of intent during his insider-trading trial, now entering its second day, according to a jury expert not involved in the case.

“This whole case is about what Mr. Rajaratnam intended at the time, what he believed, what he knew,” Julie Blackman, a principal at trial-strategy firm Julie Blackman & Associates LLC, told Betty Liu on Bloomberg Television’s “In The Loop” today. Opening arguments are set to begin today.

Rajaratnam’s lawyers won’t say if they’re using a consultant to help them select a jury. Asked yesterday whether he had brought in a jury expert, John Dowd, lead lawyer for the co-founder of hedge fund Galleon Group LLC, raised his eyebrows and almost looked insulted. Jim McCarthy, Rajaratnam’s spokesman, declined to comment.

“If he was not intending to commit a crime, he should be found not guilty,” said Blackman, a social psychologist whose clients have included Martha Stewart and Leona Helmsley, both of whom were convicted.

Meet John Dowd

The defense team has also had its share of high-profile cases. Dowd, a 69-year-old ex-Marine, represented U.S. Senator John McCain in the “Keating Five” scandal more than two decades ago and led the gambling probe of Pete Rose on behalf of Major League Baseball. The Internet Movie Database says Bob Zany portrayed Dowd in “The Informant!” -- Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 film about price fixing at Archer-Daniels-Midland Co.

William White, another Rajaratnam attorney, was part of a team of lawyers at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and other firms who helped win the freedom or full pardons for 38 black people wrongly convicted of cocaine-dealing in Tulia, Texas. The lawyers’ efforts were described in Nate Blakeslee’s 2005 book “Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town.”

For his work battling the racially driven prosecutions, White and other lawyers were finalists for the 2004 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award presented by the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, according to the Akin Gump website.

The biography of White distributed by Rajaratnam’s spokesman yesterday doesn’t mention Tulia. It says White has “led or had a senior role in leading dozens of high-profile securities matters.”

White was a “well-fed, well-paid securities lawyer” with “impressive” investigative credentials, Blakeslee wrote. Those credentials will be put to the test starting tomorrow.

Excuse Me

U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell spent two days listening to potential jurors explain why they should be excused from the case, which may last 10 weeks.

A transcript of the exchanges, most of which took place at sidebars out of the earshot of reporters, reveals how some citizens sought their release.

One cited his 30-year friendship with Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist. He also said he has a lawsuit against the late Percy Sutton, a former Manhattan borough president.

“It’s been eating away at me,” he said of the lawsuit.

Another told Holwell that he pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property while in college.

“It was a street sign that was in my room, and they threw as much of the book as they could at me,” the prospective juror said.

Two people were excused based on how they described their attitudes toward the rich. One said “the effect of the recession on himself and his family” would affect his ability to serve on the jury, Holwell said after letting the jury pool go yesterday.

‘One to Go’

Not every exchange was serious, and Holwell has allowed his sense of humor to seep into the proceedings.

“One tuition down, one to go,” Holwell told a potential panelist whose child had recently graduated from school.

When another possible juror said “Judge Judy” was among her favorite television shows, the judge smiled under his bushy mustache and gave the chuckling gallery a look of feigned surprise worthy of David Letterman.

The case is U.S. v. Rajaratnam, 1:09-cr-01184, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporters on this story: David Glovin in New York at dglovin@bloomberg.net; Patricia Hurtado in New York at pathurtado@bloomberg.net; Bob Van Voris in New York at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net; Betty Liu in New York at bliu17@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.

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