Oaks’ Lawyers Object to Government’s Bid to Limit Witness Testimony
By William F. Zorzi
Defense lawyers for Maryland state Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks wasted no time registering opposition Wednesday to a prosecution request of the judge to disallow testimony by witnesses – including two FBI undercover sources – at a motions hearing scheduled for next week.
The day after federal prosecutors filed a memorandum asking U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett to prevent the defense from calling the witnesses at the hearing, Oaks’ defense lawyers urged the court to reject the request in the public corruption case.
“The government’s request should be denied because … the testimony sought by the defense is necessary for the court to resolve the pending motions,” wrote Lucius T. Outlaw III and Rebecca S. Talbott, the federal public defenders representing Oaks.
The defense attorneys went on to argue that the government did not have standing to challenge the subpoenas and asked Bennett to act on the matter.
Kathleen O. Gavin and Leo J. Wise, the assistant U.S. attorneys in the Oaks case, asked Bennett Tuesday to preclude the defense from calling witnesses at the hearing – now scheduled for next Friday, March 16 – and to unseal the defense memos supporting the witness subpoenas.
A West Baltimore Democrat, Oaks is charged with nine counts related to allegations that he took $15,300 in bribes from “Mike Henley,” an FBI informant posing as a Texas businessman wanting to build apartments in Baltimore. He is also charged with obstruction of justice.
Oaks has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
Defense motions pending before the court are a request to dismiss six of the 10 charges against Oaks and for Bennett to agree, before trial, to explain entrapment to the jury.
Outlaw and Talbott have subpoenaed “Henley,” whom they identified in court documents last week as William Myles, and an FBI “Cooperating Witness” (the “CW”), identified Saturday by Maryland Matters as Robert J. Barrett, to testify at the motions hearing next week.
The defense also has subpoenaed two members of the Maryland Department of Legislative Services to the motions hearing, as well. Those employees drafted legislation at Oaks’ request — though it was never introduced — which prosecutors allege was part of a bribery scheme involving the lawmaker.
Earlier defense motions supporting the subpoena request – ex parte motions placed under seal and apparently never seen by prosecutors – already had been granted by Bennett, but that was only discovered Monday by the government lawyers.
Outlaw and Talbott argued in their memo Wednesday that unsealing documents supporting the subpoenas would allow “the government to peek into the defense strategy,” thus putting Oaks at a disadvantage at trial, and “set a dangerous precedent” under the law.
Meanwhile Wednesday, Gavin wrote to Bennett asking for an “expedited hearing” on the government’s motion to preclude the defense from calling witnesses at next Friday’s motions hearing.
“‘Mike Henley’ is in California both this week and next week for trial preparation in another case that is pending in federal district court,” Gavin explained. “In light of the significant expense associated with bringing Mr. Henley from California, and the accompanying major disruption to the prosecution preparations … [in that] trial, I respectfully ask the court to issue a ruling as soon as practicable as to whether Mr. Henley must appear at the motions hearing.”