by Stuart Pfeifer
A federal judge in Los Angeles overturned the corruption convictions of the top two executives of Lindsey Manufacturing Co., an Azusa power equipment firm, saying prosecutors’ misconduct prevented a fair trial.
In a lengthy and scathing ruling, U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz said Justice Department attorneys allowed an FBI agent to present false testimony to a grand jury, inserted false statements into search warrant applications and unlawfully intercepted emails between a defendant and a defense attorney.
Matz said the misconduct was so flagrant that prosecutors should not be permitted to retry Lindsey Manufacturing executives Keith Lindsey and Steve K. Lee.
“Dr. Lindsey and Mr. Lee were put through a severe ordeal. Charges were filed against them as a result of a sloppy, incomplete and notably overzealous investigation,” Matz said in his ruling. He had issued a tentative ruling Monday and made that ruling final Wednesday.
“The government team committed many wrongful acts. It should not be permitted to escape the consequences of that conduct.”
In May, a federal jury in Los Angeles convicted Lindsey and Lee of charges alleging that they violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying a middleman to bribe officials with a state-owned power company in Mexico in order to obtain the company’s business.
Jan L. Handzlik, the defense attorney, said the judge’s ruling helped correct an injustice. He had argued that Lindsey officials were unaware of the bribes.
“This is a great day for the Keith Lindsey and Steve Lee. They never once wavered in their belief of their innocence,” Handzlik said. “It is also a great day for the fair administration of justice. Without an independent judiciary and courageous, fair-minded judges, days like this would not be possible.”
Matz also said he was not impressed with the evidence presented at trial. Prosecutors had argued that Lindsey and Lee authorized payments to a Mexican company, knowing it would be used to bribe officials with the country’s power company. Matz said he heard no direct evidence of that intent.
“The case against the Lindsey defendants was far from compelling,” the judge said.