Adelphia Founder & Son Can See Withheld Proof

     MANHATTAN (CN) — A federal judge ruled that a father and son duo jailed for siphoning $100 million from the now-defunct TV giant Adelphia can view favorable evidence withheld from them for more than decade.
     After reviewing the documents privately, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood granted John and Timothy Rigas’ motion to compel nonparty Patrick M. McLaughlin to produce documents containing his notes taken during a series of meetings that took place in 2004 between federal prosecutors and Carl Rothenberger, who had worked as Adelphia’s outside counsel.
     In 2004, the Rigases were found guilty of conspiring to loot the cable television company of millions of dollars. They were accused of taking $100 million while hiding $2 billion in debt.
     The verdict was considered by many at the time to be an important victory in the government’s efforts to hold corporate leaders accountable for the excesses of the late 1990s.
     John Rigas, who was 79 years old at the time, and Timothy Rigas, 47, were also found guilty of two counts of bank fraud and 15 counts of securities fraud.
     Adelphia once served more than 5 million customers in 31 states, but collapsed in 2002. The elder Rigas was a co-founder of the company.
     In their motion to compel, the Rigases claimed that during a Feb. 20, 2004 meeting, Rothenberger provided information to the prosecution that was materially exculpatory — meaning it was favorable to the Rigases — and that the prosecution has failed to disclose this information.
     McLaughlin was Rothenberger’s personal attorney at the meeting.
     Judge Wood wrote in her Wednesday opinion and order granting the motion to compel that McLaughlin’s arguments against disclosure were “unpersuasive” and that since he was nonparty, he was not entitled to claim the protection against disclosure articulated in federal civil procedure rules.
     Wood also found that McLaughlin’s notes from the meeting were subject to disclosure because they constituted fact work and did not reveal the attorney’s thought process, which would be protected.
     “The McLaughlin notes represent the best possible source for petitioners to discover what was actually said during the Rothenberger interview,” the judge wrote. “Thus, the court finds that, even if the notes did qualify for work product protection, petitioners have shown their substantial need for the McLaughlin notes, and cannot obtain them by any other means.”
     In 2012, the Rigases, along with other members of their family, agreed to forfeit more than 95 percent of the family’s assets to the government, which returned $728 million to more than 13,000 victims of the family’s fraud.
     The U.S. Attorney’s office said at the time that the Adelphia distribution was “the largest single distribution of forfeited assets to victims in Department of Justice history.”
     After serving eight years of his 12-year sentence, the elder Rigas was freed earlier this year after he was diagnosed with terminal Stage IV bladder cancer with metastases to the lungs.
     Federal prosecutors said his life expectancy is six months or less, and that he was likely to die before being eligible for release in January 2018.

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