Michael J. Goonan is good friend of mine, a bartender in New York. Like the guy in Piano Man, “he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke.” Unfortunately, he tells the same bad jokes… repeatedly. If someone says “It’s a small world” in his presence, he will invariably add “but I wouldn’t want to paint it.” Ouch.
Now here’s a coincidence for you.
U.S. vs. EDDIE LEE DAVIS
Way back in 1991, with a year under my belt as an AUSA, I tried a pretty bad guy named Eddie Lee Davis. It was one of many cases I did with Detective Tim Shalhoob of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Repeat Offender Program (“ROP”). The charge was Felon in Possession of a Firearm. That trial, and most of my trials, took place in the old Foley Federal Courthouse.
It was weak, basically a one witness case. Davis was mad at his girlfriend, very mad. He was at a bar, and he was armed. After calling the girl and threatening her, he coerced a poor slob named Luther into giving him a ride to her house. The girlfriend called the police. Luther’s car, with Davis as the sole passenger, was stopped. A handgun was recovered under his seat. Of course it was not registered.
After his arrest, Davis showed up at Luther’s house one night; broke in; and threatened to kill him if he testified. He had a friend waiting outside in a running car. Inside, Eddie stole Luther’s driver’s license, just to scare him a little more. It worked. Luther was terrified.
When it came time for trial, Luther told the Judge, Lloyd D. George, that he would not testify. He pointed at Davis and said “Judge, put me in jail right now, because of if I testify, they will find me dead behind the wheel of my car.” I would take a shot without our witness. I still had the evidence of his motive, to terrorize his girlfriend.
Wrong. Judge George held her testimony to be inadmissible. Now, I love Judge George, but that’s how he ruled and a week or two later, a Ninth Circuit case came out almost exactly on point, in our favor (U.S. vs Dunn).
At some subsequent court appearance, Judge George was humble enough to call me up to side bar and practically apologize. As smart and well regarded as he was, he had never assumed the imperious attitude of so many judges.
A gentleman and consummate professional, to this day.
DAN AND JENNIFER
Davis’s lawyer was an Assistant Federal Defender named Dan Albregts. He started at the FPD’s Office around the same time I did at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Needless to say, Davis was acquitted. All I could argue was that his body language, per the arresting officer’s observations, suggested it was Davis’s gun.
To the best of my recollection, this was one of two cases that I flat out lost in Las Vegas in 13 years. I had an intern working for me at the time, a young law student named Jennifer Togliatti. Her father George was one of the machers over at the FBI. I really liked Jennifer, and she helped me on several projects. One was the appeal of Gregory Barker, whom I convicted at trial. Barker was a murderer, a serial bank robber, and a suspected serial killer. His appeal resulted a published Ninth Circuit opinion.
Back to Eddie’s trial, so Jennifer Togliatti was sitting with me at counsel table when I heard “not guilty” for the first time in federal court. ROP always worked with an ATF agent, and this case was no exception. I won’t name him, but he was pretty pissed about the verdict. As if there was anything I could do under the circumstances!
But there was.
I learned a hard lesson in this case. Lock in your witnesses in the Grand Jury before indicting them to avoid surprises.
Repeat, lock in your witnesses in the Grand Jury before indicting them to avoid surprises, idiot!
One of the reasons I did not mention the agent’s name is that I don’t want this to turn into a soap opera, but Jennifer ended up dating him for a while.
Dan Albregts and I would tangle several times after that. We were friendly enough outside the courtroom, but he played hardball inside. I guess I did too, but he wasn’t above throwing some chin music when I was up to bat, even if the occasional fastball hit me in the face. He never got so lucky again as he had in the Davis case and he would learn an even harder lesson in our most notable contest.
Okay, herein lies the coincidence. On August 5, Dan Albregts will begin an eight-year term as a United States Magistrate Judge.
And last week, Jennifer Togliatti, now a Las Vegas state court judge, was approved by the Senate Judiciary to advance to the full Senate for a vote on her nomination by President Trump to serve as Nevada’s next Federal District Court judge.
Federal Judge Albregts. Federal Judge Togliatti.
It’s too bad I never learned to play well with others, but congrats to them.