Perhaps the most surprising part of the defense’s doomed case wasn’t something that was said, but wasn’t said. In pretrial court filings, criminal defense attorney Barry Tarlow wrote that his client, Yagman, was the victim of a “vindictive government” because of his “contentious history with federal law enforcement officials.”
In response to Tarlow’s assertions, Judge Wilson gave the defense leeway to question federal agents about their motives in investigating Yagman, and it seemed to be a promising angle — especially considering polls showing growing distrust of the Bush administration over its use of executive powers to take down perceived political enemies. Yet in court, Tarlow inexplicably never brought up the subject. Instead, he rather pointlessly called up aging former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, whom Yagman owed $40,000 in legal fees, to testify that Yagman was an “honorable man” who “loved hot dogs.”
“He liked to go to Coney Island,” Clark told Tarlow, who pursued this bizarre line of questioning. “He said they tasted better out there.”
Now Yagman, who’s free on a $100,000 bond, will spend the summer thinking about his appeal and sentencing, maybe eat some hot dogs. The 19 counts add up to 180 years in federal prison, but prosecutors say Yagman will probably be sentenced to only about 80 months, which would make the lawyer nearly 70 years old at the time of his release.
So far, there has been no news of a Free Stephen Yagman campaign, but white-collar criminals like him rarely stir up that kind of grass-roots support. And, as it turns out, the case against Yagman wasn’t an example of the feds going mad with power. Far from it. It was about the government wanting money owed to it, and a pound of flesh. They got it.