Today's Reading

And, as Gordon Hughes took a longer pause than usual, Raquel detected, by the instincts formed after years as a trial lawyer who was now renowned as one of the four or five best criminal defense attorneys in the country and the only one who was a woman, the emergence of that hard edge the Senator had described. This time Gordon Hughes stared with a tough-guy, supercilious edge at Raquel without glancing at the jury. "You know him better than I do, Ms. Rematti. Just put your name on Google and the words Oscar Caliente appear in dozens of matches with your name."

Raquel knew how important it was never to let a witness take control. "Listen, carefully, sir: You know who Mr. Caliente is, correct?"

"Google tells me he's the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel in the United States and that just two or three years ago you represented someone—I think he was called The Blade of the Hamptons—who worked for Oscar Caliente."

Years earlier Raquel would have looked at the judge and said, "Your Honor, move to strike the answer as non-responsive." But by now she'd learned that too-formal sounding statements not only made her seem defensive and anxious to hide something from the jurors but were also futile: even if the judge agreed and instructed the jury to disregard the challenged answer, the bell couldn't be unrung.

Raquel asked, "Did you ever meet with Oscar Caliente?"

Remembering the instructions given to him by Decker and his assistants, Gordon Hughes now softened his expression, leaning confidently toward the jurors, and said, "I did."

"Who did you understand him to be?"

"One of my other partners, the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, told me he was a wealthy Argentinean who had become a naturalized U.S. citizen and who wanted to be a silent partner in the casino. So the name Polo Grounds LLC was used on all the documents. I was told Mr. Caliente liked to play polo. He owned polo horses."

"But you knew that only Oscar Caliente was Polo Grounds LLC, correct?"

"I never dealt with anyone else from Polo Grounds LLC."

"And you knew Mr. Caliente was a leader of the Sinaloa cartel?"

"I do now. So do you. I didn't know that then. I had no idea at that time. I never would have spent a second with him, if I knew that. But I didn't, and I still don't know that for sure."

"And you know the Sinaloa cartel is the largest, most violent drug cartel in the world, right?"

"I read that in the newspapers. And it's mentioned on some of the entries I saw under your name on a Google search. In fact, as I recall it, those were words you used."

"How often did you meet Mr. Caliente?"

"Only once."

"At the Peninsula Hotel in Manhattan?"

"Yes."

"For how long?"

"Ten minutes."

"What did he say to you and what did you say to him?"

"We talked about the fact that he had money he wanted to invest in the casino."

"Did you ask him where his money came from?"

"No." Hughes icily shifted his gaze from the jury to Raquel. "Where does your money come from?"

She ignored him. "And why," she asked, unfazed by Hughes' hostility, which she, in fact, welcomed,"didn't you put Mr. Caliente's name on the bankruptcy disclosure form?"

"The form asked who the casino's owners were. The shares had been issued to Polo Grounds LLC. I checked with official New York State filings and saw it was a legally organized company, not just a fictitious name. So I thought at the time I was answering the question that the form asked."

Quietly, intently, distinctly, Raquel spoke, "You knew you were lying then and you know you're lying now, correct?"

"Forms can be ambiguous, Ms. Rematti."

"You graduated from Stanford Law School, right?"

"I did."

"And then you went to work as a young lawyer for Cravath, Swain & Moore, one of the oldest and fanciest law firms in the world?"

"I did. I was only there four years. I developed other interests."

"You were in the corporate department at Cravath?"

"Yes. I was young."

"But you knew that when forms like the bankruptcy filing used words such as who owns a company beneficially, directly, or indirectly they are looking for real information about who the real owners are?"

"If you say so."

"No, no, Mr. Hughes," Raquel said. "Just answer the question."

Almost meekly, he stared at Raquel. "You're right."

"So, you lied?"


This excerpt ends on page 12 of the hardcover edition.
...

What our readers think...