Media bias hurts SAC exec's right to fair trial -lawyer

Tue Jul 9, 2013 3:47pm EDT
 
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By Emily Flitter

NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Wall-to-wall" media coverage is hindering SAC Capital executive Michael Steinberg's chances at a fair trial as it mostly presumes his guilt on insider trading charges, Steinberg's lawyer claimed in a memo filed on Tuesday.

To fix the problem, Steinberg's legal team asked for permission to have potential jurors fill out a questionnaire to identify any potential bias among them, according to the memo filed in federal court in New York. At least one legal expert said there was a only slim chance the request would be granted.

The memo said stories about the investigation into Steinberg's trading in two technology stocks were likely fueled by government leaks, and that potential jurors could be swayed by what they have already read about the case in the press.

"The coverage has not only been ubiquitous, but its qualitative content has also been inflammatory, thereby heightening the risk that it could interfere with the ability of potential jurors to assess impartially the government's case against Mr. Steinberg and Mr. Steinberg's defense," the memo said.

Steinberg is the latest of nine people from Steven A. Cohen's $15 billion hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors to be charged or implicated by federal prosecutors in an insider trading investigation that has lasted more than five years and resulted in intense media coverage of Cohen and his associates.

He was arrested on March 29 and charged with trading shares of the tech companies Dell DELL.O and Nvidia (NVDA.O: Quote) in 2008 and 2009 based on inside information. His trial is set to begin on November 18.

In Tuesday's memo, Steinberg's lawyer Barry Berke cited a litany of stories about the insider trading probe of SAC Capital. "The press itself has characterized the coverage of Mr. Cohen, SAC and those associated with SAC as 'a crescendo,'" he wrote, citing stories in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Time, Vanity Fair, the New York Business Journal, New York Magazine and other publications.

"Since September of 2012, for example, Mr. Steinberg has been mentioned in at least 203 original articles, appearing both in print and online, and alleged insider trading at SAC Capital has been mentioned in at least 931 original articles," Berke wrote.   Continued...

 
Michael Steinberg leaves Manhattan Federal Court in New York March 29, 2013. REUTERS/Keith Bedford