Lone WitnessBy: Rachel Dylan
Guilty. That’s the only possible verdict. Ladies and gentleman of the jury, Felix Sanders, the CEO of Banton Corporation, has been embezzling for five years.” Sophie Dawson took a deep breath, then continued her closing argument. She made eye contact with each of the twelve members of the jury who would decide the fate of the crooked CEO.
“Throughout the past week, you’ve heard testimony not only from other employees of Banton Corporation, but from our forensic accounting experts. Those experts testified that there is no doubt that Mr. Sanders was funneling money from the accounts of Banton investors into his personal slush fund that sits in a Swiss bank account.” If she lost this case, then she deserved to be fired. The evidence against Sanders was rock solid. It was rare to have a case this bulletproof.
“The defense would have you believe that every single one of these transactions was made in clerical error, but now that you’ve heard and seen all of the evidence, I submit to you that there is no way that conclusion could ever be reached. Let me remind you that we’re talking about hundreds of transactions over a five-year period. The defense’s position asks you to suspend all logic and enter a fantasyland that doesn’t exist. While the prosecution has the burden of proof, we have clearly met that requirement with these facts.”
This was one of Sophie’s first major jury trials since she’d joined the White Collar Crime Unit of the Fulton County District Attorney’s office. Moving from the general trial division into the White Collar division had been a promotion, but financial crimes weren’t quite as exciting as murder. And the victims in this particular case weren’t individual consumers but other wealthy hedge fund types. They still deserved justice, though, because their money had been stolen from them. What Sanders had done was a crime, and she was doing her job as a prosecutor.
Sophie walked the jury through the remaining pieces of evidence. Then it was time for the defense to give their closing argument. Sanders had hired a big shot defense attorney from Peters & Gomez, but even a superstar high-priced lawyer wasn’t going to save him from a conviction. Sophie zoned out a little as the attorney droned on and on, trying to poke holes in her case. She thought it was a strategic miscalculation on his part to be so long-winded. The jury had been sitting there all week. They would be ready to start their deliberations and be done with this. But she wasn’t a defense attorney and had no desire to ever be one. If that was the strategy he wanted to employ, then who was she to second-guess him?
When her opposing counsel finally sat down, the judge provided the jury with instructions, and the jurors were excused for their deliberations. Now all Sophie could do was wait. It could be minutes, hours, or days before the jury came back with a verdict, although she hoped it would be quick. If it took too long, she’d start to get worried.
She started packing up her stuff as her opposing counsel, John Gomez, walked over to her. Sanders was probably paying Gomez, a founding partner at the firm, over a thousand dollars an hour. A ridiculous sum for legal fees, if you asked her.
“Ms. Dawson, that was a very impressive closing argument.” John smoothed his tailored navy suit jacket.
“Thank you.” Sophie guessed John was probably in his fifties, and his short dark hair was slightly graying at the temples. She wasn’t sure why he was talking to her. She was just one of many Fulton County prosecutors, and he was one of the heaviest hitters in the legal community. Being a founding partner of one of the most prestigious law firms in town was a big deal to most people. But his power and clout didn’t impress her that much. She was more moved by other attributes.
John took a step toward her. “You have a great presence, even if you are a bit rough around the edges.”
“Excuse me?” This wasn’t the first time she had received unsolicited comments about her courtroom performance from her opposing counsel. Being a relatively young female with a baby face and blond hair, she was constantly trying to prove herself.
“It was a compliment. So much so, that I’d love for you to consider making a lateral move over to our firm. I’m sure I could at least triple your current salary, and we can always use top talent with real trial experience. Tested trial lawyers aren’t easy to come by.” His dark eyes studied her.