The FBI's case against Mastro Auctions is ever-so-slowly chugging along.
Just before the 2012 National, the FBI unsealed a twenty-two count indictment against William Mastro, William Boehm, Doug Allen and Mark Theotikos (all former employees of Mastro Auctions). The charges included one count against Mastro for mail fraud, 14 against Allen for wire and mail fraud, six against Theotikos for wire and mail fraud and one against Boehm for making false statements to FBI agents investigating Mastro's practices.
Since then, all four defendants have pled not guilty to all counts.
Earlier this month, the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago scheduled a six-week jury trial for Oct. 22, 2013.
Legal pondering: Boy, this is a missed opportunity. The National will be in Chicago next year from July 31 to August 4. Couldn’t the court have started the trial then? Maybe offer some type of dual admittance and autograph signing? Heck, why not move the trial to the convention center and charge admission? I hear Illinois is in a budget shortfall. This would certainly help.
In its order, the court also stated this case was going have "voluminous discovery."
Legal translation: Lots and lots and lots and lots of documents.
Here's the downside: although there are lots of materials, the public will not get to see them all because a Protective Order was also entered.
Legal translation: Although trials and hearings are supposed to be open to the public, sometimes the public is screened from certain court happenings if "confidential" information is at issue.
In this case, the types of materials that will be screened include, "tax and bank records, corporate records, victim names, customers' personal identifying information, including credit card information, home addresses, cellular phone numbers, etc., and customer correspondence, whose unrestricted dissemination could adversely affect law enforcement interests and privacy interests of third parties."
I can understand withholding a lot of this information like customer credit card information. It makes sense, but what worries me is that "corporate records" can also be withheld.
Legal translation of "corporate records": Uhh, well, crap. No one really knows. As used, it's a pretty vague term without a strict legal definition. And this causes problems because it can cover a lot of ground. Arguably, every document a corporation makes can be a corporate record.
My concern with this subjective term is most protective orders are too broadly applied. Lawyers, generally, do not like their cases tried in public. That's why they say things like, "No comment," whenever microphones are waved at them.
Given this predilection, most lawyers tend to err on the side of caution when a protective order is involved and designate every document they can as "confidential." Heck, I've been in quite a few cases where hundreds of thousands of pages of documents were produced, and every single document was designated "CONFIDENTIAL" by the defendant, even though some were newspaper and magazine articles, patents and other publicly available documents.
Unfortunately, this means there's a chance that some, if not the bulk, of this case could be withheld from us.
Now, it's not a foregone conclusion that this will happen. Maybe both sides will use a more limited view of what a "corporate record" is. I doubt it, but given how this case could be the Sports Memorabilia Trial of the Century, it would be nice if more was made public than not.
Regardless, with the trial date set, Chicago will be a focus of the sports memorabilia world in October, 2013. And given that the Cubs are rarely relevant in October (and that the Bears play on Sundays when the court is closed), this trial might be the best sports draw in Chi-town.
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