April 3, 2008

Lawyers for Gov. Spitzer Case Attended Cornell Law School

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Though the governor’s role as an ex-officio member of the Cornell Board of Trustees is often emphasized when mentioning former Governor Eliot Spitzer’s (D-N.Y.) downfall, many people overlook the fact that the attorneys working on the case are also tied to Cornell; two of the lawyers were educated at the Cornell law school.
Shortly after The New York Times revealed that Spitzer, a.k.a. “Client 9,” used the services of the debunked prostitution ring The Emperor’s Club V.I.P on March 10, he resigned on March 12.
Members of the press contended that Spitzer’s resignation came as a result of a deal he made with the United States Attorney’s Office.
In a press release, Michael Garcia, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, laid this claim to rest. He stated, “There is no agreement between this Office and Governor Eliot Spitzer, relating to his resignation or any other matter.”
It would seem that this claim is true as the Office has assigned Boyd M. Johnson III law ’92 to oversee the case. Though no charges have officially been filed against Spitzer, last month the Manhattan office brought charges against organizers and managers of an international prostitution ring that would later be identified as the Emperor’s Club V.I.P.
Currently, legal experts explain that Spitzer could face charges of transporting a prostitute across state lines and structuring, a felony that involves breaking large sums of money into smaller amounts in order to conceal where the money is being sent.
But according to The National Post, Johnson is looking into a third charge that could land Spitzer in jail: using campaign funding to pay the high-priced call girls of the Emperor’s Club V.I.P., who could command up to $5,500 an hour. Johnson was the individual who initially secured authorization to wiretap Spitzer’s phone conversation, which yielded the infamous “Client 9” conversation.
Johnson, an assistant United States attorney, is the head of the public corruption unit at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District New York and works under Garcia. He was appointed leader of the unit in 2006. He started his tenure at the U.S. Attorney’s office in 1999, and previously worked as the former chief of the international narcotics-trafficking unit.
Prior to working at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he worked at the New York law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. He attended Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.
According to Randy Mastro, a Gibson Dunn partner who supervised Johnson, he said Johnson switched to the public sector because he wanted to spend more time in the courtroom. He told the New York Times, “He’s somebody who has both a natural presence and skills in the courtroom, but also has a genuine commitment to public service.”
Representing sex worker Ashley Alexandra Dupré, more infamously known as “Kristen,” is Don D. Buchwald law ’68 and B.A.’65. During his time as undergrad at Cornell, Buchwald was briefly a member of The Sun’s staff.
Though Buchwald declined to comment on the pending case, he stated in an e-mail, “We have not confirmed that Ms. Dupré is “Kristen” (though that has been widely reported in the press)”.
However, in a March 13 article in The New York Times, Buchwald stated that Dupré had been subpoenaed to testify in a grand jury investigation. The Wall Street Journal’s “Law Blog” revealed that Buchwald is her court-appointed attorney.
Currently, Buchwald is a partner at the Kelley Drye law firm in New York City, where his practice areas include white-collar crime, investigations and litigation. In recent years, he is best known for defending R. Foster Winans, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, against charges of insider trading. He represented Winans from the initial trial through oral argument in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Buchwald cited that one of the many reasons he went to law school was because he watched Perry Mason.
According to Buchwald, this is not the first time he has encountered Johnson. Buchwald served from 1973 to 1990 at the same office Johnson is currently working at as the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division. Buchwald said that he served as the defense attorney in the first ever case that Johnson prosecuted for the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office in the early 2000s.

Peter Cronin, associate dean for Alumni Affairs and Development for the Law School said, “We have a number of people who have gone on to be prosecutors and a number of graduates who have become high profile litigators and defense attorneys. I couldn’t point to you a specific example of this, but I doubt that this is the first this has happened.”