Denouement or Vindication?

Jurors in Symington's 12-week criminal trial hear closing arguments, begin deliberations

"It is absolutely uncontradicted in this case that Coopers had every single piece of financial information about John Fife Symington III that you could have," Dowd said. "The government says Coopers & Lybrand had no duty to serve their client. But an accounting firm which has been paid over a million dollars clearly has such a duty."

After portraying Symington as a victim, Dowd tried to polish Symington's image, saying he was an "incurable optimist with no quit in his blood"--and all his lenders understood that.

And he was honest, never taking a dime that was undeserved.
"Dishonest men do not bring $120 million projects in on time under budget and lien-free with no money missing," Dowd said.

But he also was human. Sure, Dowd said, Symington made mistakes on his financial statements. But who wouldn't? After all, Dowd said, valuing commercial real estate is such a tricky business that it is impossible to guarantee the accuracy of the valuation.

Dowd argued that Symington simply estimated the value of his real estate projects and his future share in them. Furthermore, Dowd said, no one cared about the financial statements.

The proof? When Symington hired Coopers & Lybrand in 1991 to prepare a detailed review of his personal finances, none of Symington's lenders was upset when it learned of his $35 million decline in net worth, Dowd claimed.

"He provided all the financial information the lenders wanted," Dowd said. "And lo and behold, the information reveals his bad memory, his lack of attention, his unbridled optimism in his own projects, his errors, his mistakes, his oversights, his undersights, every wart you can imagine.

"The lenders take it all in and work it out. They don't kick him when he's down. They don't pick over the carcass. They don't grill him about every entry on every financial statement. Why? Because they did not judge him by his statement. They judged him by his performance."

Dowd blasted the government for asking why Symington had no notes confirming conversations in which his mother told him not to worry about repaying millions of dollars.

"Can you imagine? Is this what we are coming to in this country?" Dowd asked. "Do you have to take notes when you talk to your mother? That shows how desperate they are."

The oration continued for hours, as Dowd skimmed through each of the charges, telling the jury Symington is innocent. Occasionally, Dowd would raise the specter of evil forces--his favorite being former Symington business partner Jerry Hirsch--bent on ruining Symington.

Dowd made Hirsch out to be a greedy man who "tortured" Symington for millions of dollars to buy out his share in the Camelback Esplanade and then was too afraid to appear in court, sending his lawyer instead.

Apparently, Dowd believed demonizing Hirsch was necessary to weaken evidence showing that Symington owed Hirsch far more money than Symington was reporting on his financial statements.

After blasting the motives and intentions of others, Dowd urged the jury to believe that Symington always acted in "an honest and good-faith basis," especially when he estimated real estate values on his financial statements.

"As the court will instruct you, his good faith is a complete defense to these charges," Dowd said.

Dowd concludes, "The government ridicules his belief and accuses him of a crime because he stood by his belief in his real estate values. There is no crime."

At least one member of the jury appeared to accept Dowd's argument. The juror, a middle-aged man with short hair and glasses, nodded when Dowd asked for the governor's acquittal on four counts related to DKB.

The Psychologist
David Schindler leaned back in his courtroom chair, legal pad on his lap, his right hand under his chin.

He watched as John Dowd concluded his emotional arguments.
Schindler was honing his counterattack. Late on Thursday, August 7, he got the chance to launch it.

"I am not going to rant and rave," Schindler told the jury. "I'm not going to scream at you. I'm not going to yell. I'm not going to wave my hands. I'm not going to point my finger. I'm not going to move my glasses. I'm not going to jump up and down, because I don't need to, ladies and gentlemen," Shindler said.

"The evidence is there."
In an instant, the former University of California psychology major deflated what Dowd had spent the entire day constructing. And then Schindler asked the jury a simple question.

"Do we all have to play by the same set of rules?"
Schindler told the jury that "real estate developers" and "governor[s]" don't have their own standards.

"You need to say that it's time for the lies, the deception, the double-speak, the theatrics, for all of that to stop," Schindler said.

Schindler told jurors that the government has given them the opportunity to sit in judgment of a person who is at the heart of America's financial system and who intimately understands its inner workings.

Symington, Schindler said, deceived lenders who were in awe of his heritage and ties to East Coast wealth. The lenders believed Symington was a "good guy" who somehow managed to stay afloat while other developers fell by the wayside in the late 1980s.

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