First, a couple of disclaimers. I am a real fan of handguns manufactured by Glock. And, for many years I have known Paul Jannuzzo, who was convicted this spring in Superior Court of theft and racketeering offenses involving the company. I have no direct interest in the case and have been neither retained nor paid by anyone involved in it; although I did write a letter of support for Jannuzzo prior to his sentencing April 11.
The case pits veteran prosecutor John Butters and his boss, Cobb District Attorney Pat Head, against the younger, but already well-seasoned defense attorney, John Da Grosa Smith, who cut his legal teeth as a prosecutor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the late 1990s.
Motions for new trial are often filed, but rarely granted; and I offer no prognosis on how Judge Kell might rule. Nor do I stake out a position on which side should win. What I wish to convey to readers is that however the issues currently on the judicial table ultimately are decided, the scope of Georgia’s racketeering laws — and the ease with which such charges might in the future be pursued — may be significantly enhanced or scaled back.
At the heart of any racketeering prosecution must be found at least two criminal acts that must be related in a prescribed manner by time and purpose. But exactly which acts can be charged, and within what precise time frame they must have occurred, remain crucial questions before Judge Kell. Ultimately, and regardless of how the trial judge decides, the appellate courts will answer these questions; but Kell will tee them up.
Prosecutors across Georgia — and members of the defense bar who handle so-called “RICO” cases (the acronym for the awkward title of the law — “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations” Act), will likely be watching carefully to determine if a green light or a cautionary yellow light is lit by the ruling.
The other major question likely to be laid at Judge Kell’s feet is one that — while less common than challenges to the RICO statute — also carries very real consequences for the manner in which prosecutors prepare their cases. Specifically, the judge is being pressed by Jannuzzo’s lawyer to find fault with the fact that, in preparing the indictment in this case, prosecutors relied heavily on the work of outside, civil attorneys associated with Glock. Those attorneys were more intimately familiar with the inner workings of Glock and of the particular acts allegedly undertaken by Jannuzzo and his co-conspirator, Peter Manown, who plead guilty before Jannuzzo went to trial.
It is not uncommon for prosecutors — particularly state district attorneys — to rely to some extent on expertise or work product of outside, civilian lawyers, when investigating and preparing complex criminal cases. Jannuzzo’s lawyer argues that in this particular case, the government relied far too heavily on an outside, New York lawyer for Glock. Da Grosa Smith argues also that the D.A. was able to use that resource impermissibly to shoe-horn in facts that then allowed the government to avoid having the case dismissed because it waited too long to file the charges.
The details of these issues are far more complicated than summarized here; and there are other aspects of the case drawing attention of firearms lawyers and pundits (some relating to the role played by Glock’s patriarch, Gaston Glock, in all this). However, even the strictly legal issues which Judge Kell will sort out, will provide much legal red meat for prosecutors and defense lawyers to spar over for quite some time.
Bob Barr of Marietta is a former Congressman and former U.S. Attorney for Atlanta.