Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Illustrated Courtroom Presentation by Elizabeth Williams

The Illustrated Courtroom: 50 Years of Court Art 
a Kirkus Review's Best Book of 2014
a Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year
On sale now for 30 dollars on Amazon

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sexy Russian spy ‘tried to seduce’ Snowden


Sexy Russian spy Anna Chapman tried to seduce whistleblower Edward Snowden on orders straight from the Kremlin, according to a defector.
Boris Karpichkov, a former KGB agent, claims that a plan was launched for Chapman, 32, to keep Snowden, 31, in Moscow so that Russian agents could continue to question him about US security secrets, according to a new report.

Anna Chapman made her debut appearance in a Manhattan Federal Courthouse on June 28, 2010.
Image below by Elizabeth Williams

Friday, December 5, 2014


To Buy the Book
CUNY Press 

by Jonathan Benthall

Benthall is an author and an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University College London.

From the entry by Jonathan Benthall to "Books of the Year" in the TLS for November 28, 2014:

Courtroom artists in Britain have to work from memory, but in the USA they have the advantage of being allowed to sit with their drawing materials. The Illustrated Courtroom: Fifty years of courtroom art by Elizabeth Williams and Sue Russell (CUNY Journalism Press) is an anthology of this underrated genre. The camera has not yet displaced it in evoking tension: Charles Manson restrained by a bailiff as he leaps to attack the judge, Michael Jackson weeping as he is cleared of child abuse, Bernard Madoff led away to the lockup in handcuffs.

Link to article below "Family" Court, starring Chase Lunge: Bill Robles, via  Illustrated Courtroom F rom the entry by Jonathan Benthall to "Books of the Year" in the TLS for November 28...


The Illustrated Courtroom: 50 Years of Court Art named to the 
The Times Literary Supplement Books of the Year of 2014 
by Jonathan Benthall 
Benthall is an author and an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University College London.
Link "Family" Court, starring Chase Lunge:
Bill Robles, via  Illustrated Courtroom F rom the entry by Jonathan
Benthall to "Books of the Year" in the TLS for November 28...

Monday, December 1, 2014

Bill Robles' LAX Poster Mystery

An unknown poster by court artist Bill Robles came to light with an email to Bill requesting  information about a  poster. The person  purchased the LAX poster from an estate sale and was curious about the image. Bill requested a  photo of the poster and confirmed that the illustration was done for a 1969 annual report cover.  It came as a complete shock to Bill as he never knew the piece of artwork had been turned into a poster.
1969 Annual report cover by Bill Robles

Bill said "Needless to say, seeing the poster, I was blown away! Nobody at the Dept. of Airports ever told me that it was also going to be used as a poster promoting LAX! As it turned out, the owners of the poster have a charming book store in Covina, and they were going to sell it along with other items from their inventory at an upcoming Pasadena book fair.As you can imagine, I had to have it!”

"Can you imagine, the poster is 45 years old, and in mint condition, and I am so thrilled to have it!"

Unknown LAX poster from the same artwork above, by Bill Robles

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Former DC Mayor Marion Barry dies
AP story link

From the AP story
Barry's name  became synonymous with corruption for many observers.  His accomplishments are often forgotten in light of his arrest for drug abuse when he was caught in a Washington hotel room with a much younger woman.

"Bitch set me up," Barry famously cursed when FBI agents burst in, referring to the woman who helped the FBI set up the sting.

Below is a drawing from the 1990 trial by Aggie Kenny
Story link

Federal authorities had been investigating him for years for his alleged ties to drug suspects, and while he denied using drugs, his late-night partying was taking a toll on his job performance.

The arrest and subsequent conviction - a jury deadlocked on most counts, convicting him of a single count of drug possession - was a turning point for Barry.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cohen v Cohen and Gerry Lefcourt

High profile lawyer Gerry Lefcourt, who represented  the Black Panthers in 1970,
is now representing Patricia Cohen in a post-divorce fraud lawsuit against Steven A Cohen.
Below is an image from the Panther trial dated October 27th 1970 by Richard Tomlinson

Below the drawing from today's hearing in front of Judge Loretta Preska by Elizabeth Williams

Story from today's hearing  by Patricia Hurtado at Bloomberg News
Link below

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Southern District of New York launched a celebration of its 225th anniversary

Chief Judge Loretta Preska convenes the special session of the court to honor the 225th anniversary of the Southern District of NY, the oldest federal court in the country.

Friday, October 3, 2014

‘Real Housewives Of New Jersey’ Stars Face Sentencing For Fraud « CBS New York

‘Real Housewives Of New Jersey’ Stars Face Sentencing For Fraud « CBS New York

After a marathon all day sentencing hearing, the Joe and Teresa Giudice were sentenced to jail for their multimillion dollar fraud.

Wide shot of defense table with AUSA Jonathan Romankow speaking to Judge Salas

During the hearing, the only time time they wept was during the mention of Mr Giudice's father's death, when he found him dead in the family garden. That was what broke them up. Not the sentences that were levied upon the two of them.

Joe Giudice being sentenced to 41 months.

Giudices crying

Judge Esther Salas lambasting the Giudice's for not following the pre sentence orders to disclose all assets.

Prior to her sentencing, Teresa Giudice making statement before Judge Salas with her attorney Henry Klingman standing by her side
From TMZ
 Both Teresa and Joe were convicted of wire and bankruptcy fraud. According to the sentencing guidelines, Teresa should have received a sentences of 21 - 27 months.  Prosecutors recommended 21 -- saying if the judge wasn't hard it would show being famous counts.  Nonetheless the judge went way more lenient.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

CNBC Business: Jersey Shore's 'The Situation' indicted on tax charges

CNBC News story link
MTV's "Jersey Shore" star Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino and his brother were indicted Wednesday on charges of filing false tax returns involving $8.9 million income.

Michael was charged with two counts and his brother Marc with three counts of filing false tax returns for 2010 through 2012, according to the Department of Justice.  was also accused of failing to file a tax return for 2011.
"The brothers allegedly also claimed costly clothes and cars as business expenses and funneled company money into personal accounts," U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. "The law is absolutely clear: Telling the truth to the IRS is not optional."
Michael Sorrentino and his brother Marc Sorrentino were arraigned in Newark Federal Court on charges that they did not properly pay taxes on $8.9 million in income Michael Sorrentino received from promotional activities.

Michael Sorrentino and his brother Marc Sorrentino are charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Marc and Michael Sorrentino also are charged with three and two counts, respectively, of filing false tax returns for 2010 through 2012. Michael Sorrentino faces an additional count for allegedly failing to file a tax return for 2011. They are to be back in court in early October.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Courthouse News Service:Jury Nails Arab Bank for Helping Families Behind Terror Attacks

 American Lawyer: Global Lawyer Scenes from the Arab Bank trial

Arab Bank trial: Verdict
Courthouse News Service
by Nick Divito

N.Y. (CN) - The unprecedented civil trial of Arab Bank ended Monday
with a federal jury holding it liable for 24 Hamas-sponsored suicide
attacks in Israel.
     It has been six week since the trial kicked
off on the decade-old federal class action, filed by the families of 300
victims of two dozen separate Hamas-led suicide attacks in the West
Bank during the Second Intifada between 2000 and 2004.
     The jury deliberated all day Friday and came back with the verdict for U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan Monday afternoon.
     In ruling for the families, the jury soundly rejected the argument, as a defense attorney put it in closing arguments, that the bank has no obligation "to run around and figure out" who's on a terror backlist.
     "That's what the government does," Shand Stephens had told the jury. "And you wouldn't want it any other way."

 Tab Turner, who represents the families, countered that Arab Bank made $2 billion off terrorism in the year 2003 alone.
     He said it served as "'The Bank of the Stars' in the world of terrorism."
bank was the only bank making money off the terrorists," the attorney
said at closing arguments. "They're not interested in truth. They're
interested in protecting their pocket book. That is the power that you
have: to tell other banks, 'Don't you dare do business with these
people. You do, and you will pay.'
     "That's how we stop
terrorism. You don't stop it with bullets. You don't stop it with smart
bombs. How you stop them is you take the money away from them."
had argued at the start of the trial that the bank turned a "blind eye"
when it provided banking services for known Hamas leaders. Arab Bank
served as "paymaster" when it made tens of millions of dollars in
payments - mostly in American cash and funded by the Saudi Committee -
to families of suicide attackers, the attorney argued.
Stephens argued that the bank didn't know who it was paying because
their names did not appear on any U.S. or international blacklists. He
said Arab Bank heeded those lists and blocked transactions and froze
accounts whenever a match was made.
     Arab Bank is said to be the
financial institution to face a trial in the United States under the
Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows American victims of terrorist attacks
to seek compensation. Hamas was branded a terrorist group by the United
States in 1997.
     The verdict Monday came hours after the 2nd Circuit in Manhattan revived similar claims against another institution, National Westminster Bank.
Tab Turner attorney for the plaintiff, giving the "J Lo moment"  during closings with over sized photo of Sheikh Yassin. The jury found the Arab Bank of Jordan liable. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Courthouse News Service: Closing Arguments Today in Arab Bank Trial

Story link Courthouse News Service  By NICK DIVITO

Closing Statements in Arab Bank Trial

   BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) - Arab Bank "did what it was required to do" and
isn't liable for 24 recent Hamas-sponsored suicide attacks in the West
Bank, a defense lawyer said Thursday during closing arguments in the
landmark jury trial.
     "The bank isn't supposed to run around and
figure out" who's on a backlist, attorney Shand Stephens told a jury in
U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan's high-rise courtroom. "That's what the
government does. And you wouldn't want it any other way."
     Stephens presented the bank's closing arguments after a six-week trial stemming
from a decade-old federal class action lawsuit filed by families of 300
victims of two dozen separate Hamas-led suicide attacks in the West Bank
during the Second Intifada between 2000 and 2004.

Plaintiff attorney Tad Turner gives closing statement, large photo of Sheikh Yassin lower right corner 

   Tab Turner, who represents the families, countered during his closing
this afternoon that Arab Bank served as "'The Bank of the Stars' in the
world of terrorism." He said it made $2 billion off terrorism in the
year 2003 alone.
     The jury should "step up to the plate and say not any more ... it stops right here in Brooklyn," Turner said.
bank was the only bank making money off the terrorists," the attorney
continued. "They're not interested in truth. They're interested in
protecting their pocket book. That is the power that you have: to tell
other banks, 'Don't you dare do business with these people. You do, and
you will pay.'

Plaintiff attorney Michael Elsner giving closing statement showing jury radical calendar approved and distributed by Arab Bank in Jordan, with diagram of payments by Arab Bank to families of suicide bombers.

 Note Mr Elsner quote from Reuters story below
“We all have a role to play, to prevent terrorism, every one of us,” said Michael Elsner of Motley Rice. “We are interlinked, interdependent. We need to be together to stop this. It just can’t be that we can only act when a government says, ‘You have to act now.’ It can’t be that we only do it when the computer gives us an alert.”

Why the Arab Bank terror-finance trial matters

By Alison Frankel
September 19, 2014
From the Reuters story, link above

The four lawyers who spoke Thursday for the plaintiffs in the Arab Bank case assured them that it can – that the message they send with their verdict will force international banks to do more than check wire transfers against terrorism blacklists. If jurors find Arab Bank liable for processing about $73 million that allegedly propped up Hamas operations in the Second Intifada, the lawyers said, banks around the world will be on notice that they’re responsible for actively policing against financing terror.
“We all have a role to play, to prevent terrorism, every one of us,” said Michael Elsner of Motley Rice. “We are interlinked, interdependent. We need to be together to stop this. It just can’t be that we can only act when a government says, ‘You have to act now.’ It can’t be that we only do it when the computer gives us an alert.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

FORBES: New York Banks Also Handled Arab Bank's Alleged Terror Payments

New York Banks Also Handled Arab Bank's Alleged Terror Payments

 Forbes Staff

Many of the money transfers at the heart of a precedent-setting lawsuit against Arab Bank over terrorist financing also passed through banks like Citibank, Bank of New York and JP Morgan Chase , the deputy manager of Arab Bank’s New York bank has testified. The evidence wasn’t offered to show complicity by the larger banks in financing terrorism, but to show that the global banking system is complex and relies on automated systems to check against questionable transactions.
Plaintiff Counsel Mark Werbner cross examining Palestinian Finance Minister Shukry Bishara 
Plaintiff attorneys led by Gary Osen and Mark Werbner are trying   to break new ground by holding a bank liable for causing terrorism by handling payments between killers and enabling organizations including Muslim charities. They have a substantial advantage in the fact that U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan has decided to enforce ruling by Judge Gina Gershon, who was later removed from the case, preventing Arab Bank from arguing its executives didn’t knowingly allow transfers to terrorists. Gershon imposed the sanction as punishment after the bank refused to turn over hundreds of thousands of customer records, citing bank-secrecy laws in its home country of Jordan. The plaintiffs argued that without the records, they couldn’t prove either way whether the bank was a knowing participant in terror finance.

Beverly Milton-Edwards is a professor in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queens's University in Belfast and is the co-author of "Hamas: The Islamic Resistance Movement on the stand , questioned by attorney Gary Osen
For Arab Bank, the case represents a test of whether the federal Anti Terrorism Act becomes a mechanism for strict liability, under which banks will be held financially accountable for the actions of their clients even if the bank complied with all applicable regulations. If that happens, banks could be in a similar position as pharmaceutical companies and other manufacturers of inherently dangerous products, who are often found liable for damages caused by others like doctors misusing their products.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bloomberg News: Palestinian Official Testifies in Defense of Arab Bank

Bloomberg News

Palestinian Official Testifies in Defense of Arab Bank

September 11, 2014
Shukry Bishara, the Palestinian finance minister and a former executive at Arab Bank testifies at trial, questioned by Arab bank attorney Shand Stephens.

Shukry Bishara, the Palestinian finance minister and a former executive at Arab Bank Plc, told jurors at a U.S. trial that the bank made payments in the Palestinian territories to provide humanitarian relief, not compensate families of suicide bombers.
Bishara, the ex-chief banking officer for the Jordanian lender, testified today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, in a case brought on behalf of about 300 U.S. citizens who were injured or killed in attacks in and near Israel, or were relatives of victims. The plaintiffs claim the bank helped Hamas by providing financial services and want to hold the institution responsible for the attacks.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

ESPN: Ex-NFL players sought help in fixing settlement by Lester Munson

ESPN: Effort to alter concussion deal fails

by Lester Munson

The players hoped to persuade the judges of the high court to intervene in the settlement process that is plodding along in a lower court here. Led by former special teams player Sean Morey and attorney Steven Molo, the players wanted to look closely at some of the settlement terms. They were concerned that the agreement made no provision for any player who in the future may suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the most common affliction among former players and a potentially fatal condition. They also were unhappy with the provision of $122.5 million in fees to be paid to the lawyers ("class counsel") who engineered the settlement.

Steven Molo arguing in front of the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia, PA

Monday, September 8, 2014

Courthouse News Service: Mathew Martoma Gets Nine Years for Inside Trading

Martoma Gets Nine Years for Inside Trading

Courthouse News Service

 MANHATTAN (CN) - Neither the philanthropy, devoted fatherhood or
previously clean criminal record of former S.A.C. Capital executive
Mathew Martoma dissuaded a federal judge on Monday from sentencing him
to 9 years in prison, more time than prosecutors requested, for a $276
million inside-trading scheme involving an Alzheimer's drug.
cannot and will not ignore that the gain here is hundreds of millions
more than any previous insider trading case ever seen," U.S. District
Judge Paul Gardephe said in the ceremonial courtroom, which was filled
with reporters, lawyers and Martoma's supporters.
     Martoma, who
will head to federal prison in November, "cultivated corrupt
relationships" with two doctors over the course of two years, Gardephe

Mathew Martoma seated during sentencing, flanked by his defense team

Judge Paul Gardephe
Mathew Martoma standing while being sentenced to 9 years in prison, wife and family seated behind him.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The New York Times: Arab Bank's Lawyer Spars With Witness

The New York Times  

At Trial, Arab Bank’s Lawyer Spars With Witness 


For three days, the former chief of the Israeli military’s Palestinian Affairs Department delivered important, if a bit dry, testimony in the terrorism financing trial of Arab Bank in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.
The witness, Arieh Spitzen, had highlighted bank records showing Arab Bank routing payments to people who, he said, were widely known to be terrorists or members of Hamas.
But during cross-examination on Thursday, the typically dull dissection of bank records became lively. Mr. Spitzen was tenacious, while Shand S. Stephens, a lawyer for Arab Bank, was aggressive — making them well-matched sparring partners.

Arab Bank lawyer Shand Stephens cross examining Arieh Spitzen, plaintiff's expert witness. Mr Stephens used the example of a ream of paper to highlight how many bank documents the Arab Bank had produced. By Elizabeth Williams                                  ( click on the image to see larger)
 The case is also noteworthy because Arab Bank did not turn over a huge number of bank records; it said that would have violated financial privacy laws in some of the countries.
To “restore the evidentiary balance,” a judge who had handled the case in 2010 ruled that the bank could not explain to the jury why it did not produce the requested records.
The bank’s refusal to turn over such records stymied investigative efforts by Mr. Spitzen, who at several points on the stand referred to his frustration.
But Mr. Stephens was able to get across the point that Arab Bank had produced many documents. He opened his cross-examination by noting that the 225,000 documents the bank had turned over would reach the height of a seven-story building. After Mr. Stephens asked if those calculations were correct, Mr. Spitzen deferred to Mr. Stephens, saying he trusted him.
“Well, you’re probably one of the few people in America that trusts lawyers,” Mr. Stephens said, to laughter from spectators.
Mr. Spitzen got his own laughs, when he pointed out that he had not printed all of these records and had examined them on a computer. “I’m not using that quantity of paper,” he said. “It’s not good for the environment.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bloomberg News: Arab Bank Said at Trial to Have Sent $4 Million to Hamas

Arab Bank Said at Trial to Have Sent $4 Million to Hamas

Aug 29, 2014 12:01 AM ET
Arab Bank Plc maintained accounts for senior Hamas leaders, including former spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a former Israeli military official testified in a U.S. trial over claims the bank helped finance suicide bombings carried out by the Palestinian militant group.
Arieh Spitzen, the former head of the Israeli military’s Department of Palestinian Affairs, told jurors yesterday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, that the bank transferred about $4 million from 2000 to 2001 to as many as two dozen Hamas leaders and operatives through its New York branch.
Terrorism expert Arieh Sptizen testifies in Brooklyn Federal Court on direct examination. Questioned by plaintiff's counsel Tab Turner ( click on image to see larger)
 The Jordanian bank, based in Amman and the country’s largest, is accused of facilitating 24 attacks in or near Israel from 2001 to 2004. The bank has argued it “had no intention of providing support to Hamas or any other known terrorist organization” and that it engaged in appropriate practices for screening transactions.
 Spitzen said that some of the Hamas leaders with accounts at the bank were “well known people” who “appeared in dozens of media outlets.” An account number for Yassin, who was killed in 2004, was also publicized by the media, he said.
The former military official testified as an expert on behalf of the plaintiffs, about 300 U.S. citizens who were victims of the attacks or were their relatives. Spitzen said the evidence of Arab Bank account holders he was able to review was limited because the bank refused to hand over much of the data.
The bank has argued that it couldn’t supply more comprehensive information without violating criminal laws of Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. A federal judge ruled that jurors can be told to infer from the bank’s failure to produce the information that it intentionally provided services to terrorist groups, giving plaintiffs a potential advantage in the trial.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Courthouse News Service: Arab Bank Trial, witness Ronni Shaked

Arab Bank Jurors Led Through Terror Plots
BROOKLYN (CN) - A terrorism expert at the Arab Bank trial gave disturbing details Tuesday of several Hamas-sponsored suicide attacks in the West Bank that killed 300 innocent civilians from 2000 to 2004.
     Jerusalem-based Ronni Shaked provided details in Hebrew through an interpreter about one such attack against hundreds of Holocaust Survivors who had gathered at the Park Hotel on March 27, 2002, in Netaniya, Israel, "to celebrate Passover with friends or with other people like them," he said.
Plaintiff Attorney Tab Turner questions terrorism expert Ronni Shaked ( via interpreters) in Brooklyn Federal Court.      

     A man carrying a purse and wearing high heels, women's clothes, a wig and makeup, walked in and detonated an "explosive belt," killing 30 and injuring 140. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
     Shaked detailed the various attacks during his second day of testimony as a witness for families representing 300 victims killed or injured in the suicide attacks during the Second Intifada (uprising) in the West Bank. The plaintiffs filed the action about a decade ago, claiming that the bank processed payments for families of suicide bombers and provided banking for known Hamas leaders.
     Shaked discussed how one woman - who became known as the "Mother of Martyrs" - "sent her 17-year-old son to die for a cause that she thought was important."
For more of this story link
Courthouse News Service

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

CRUDE AWAKENING by Michael Goldhaber: Inside Chevron's Discovery Campaign in Ecuador

Inside Chevron's Discovery Campaign in Ecuador: 

CRUDE AWAKENING by Michael Goldhaber

Artwork by Elizabeth Williams

Michael D. Goldhaber, The American Lawyer

August 20, 2014
In 2009, Chevron Corporation was on a path to losing a $9.5 billion judgment in an Amazon courtroom for oil pollution in Ecuador. What the plaintiffs saw as the world's greatest environmental trial, the company perceived as the world's greatest litigation fraud. Either way, it evolved into the world's most intensive dispute. To expose the truth about the Amazon trial—and to neutralize the Ecuadoreans' indomitable lawyer Steven Donziger—Chevron would eventually hire more than 2,000 professionals from 60 law firms.
Paul Dans was far from the most illustrious. Sure, he had the credentials—two degrees from MIT, years of training as an associate at Dewey & LeBoeuf and Debevoise & Plimpton. But when the music stopped in 2009, Dans was passed over for partnership at a less lofty firm, and he found himself calling old contacts for contract work. He got a call from Miami's two-partner Rivero Mestre, which represented one of the in-house Chevron lawyers indicted by Ecuador. They wanted a fresh pair of eyes on the case file. In the early summer of 2009 they offered Dans $85 an hour—less than 5 percent of the rate of the top biller at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which has led Chevron's U.S. counter-strategy. Dans said no. At summer's end his recruiters came up to $100 an hour, and Dans relented.
Chevron regards the Amazon case as a blood libel, and it is willing to spend what it takes to clear its name. By The American Lawyer's estimate, America's third-largest company has spent more than half a billion dollars on litigation costs, which is likely a record for a single dispute. Yet to catch a renegade like Donziger, who worked at his kitchen table in a two-bedroom condo on New York's Upper West Side, it took another lawyer off the midtown grid, who often worked at his kitchen table in a two-bedroom rental two blocks away. Dans started tugging on the right thread, and Gibson Dunn kept tugging. By the time Chevron and Gibson were done with their ingenious discovery campaign, Donziger would be stripped virtually naked.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Terror Expert Testifies In Case Against Arab Bank of Beirut « CBS New York

From the NY Times
In a courtroom in
Brooklyn today, jurors heard witnesses describe violence that took
place thousands of miles away, more than a decade ago:
Two suicide bombings in Israel, outside a Tel Aviv disco in 2001 and on a bus in Jerusalem in 2003.
Artwork below by Elizabeth Williams
( click on an image to see it larger)
Terrorist expert Evan Kohlmann testifies in Brooklyn Federal Court, questioned by plaintiff attorney Michael Elsner

First witness, deceased Steve Averbach testifies in a taped  testimony about the bombing of the bus by a suicide bomber, that left him paralyzed  His last line of testimony was" and then he detonated himself"

From American Lawyer: Litigation Daily 
by Michael Goldhaber
author of upcoming book on Chevron v Donzinger case, Crude Awakening, 
on Amazon
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin loomed over a Brooklyn courtroom last week like the Dark Sith Lord of the Middle East. Jurors stared at a grainy blow-up of the Hamas founder's glowering face, four feet high and about that far from the jury box, his full, wrinkled beard and eyebrows framing a fixed frown and pouchy eyes.
It was the opening of the world's first terror finance trial, Linde v. Arab Bank. Over the next two months, jurors from East New York, Crown Heights and Canarsie will get to pass judgment on events that happened half a generation ago in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah. The man who would sway them is America's king of rollover vehicle verdicts, Tab Turner, originally of Arkadelphia, Ark.
As the trial kicked off on Thursday, Turner brought the 11 Brooklyn jurors back to a crisp sunny morning more than 13 years ago, a third of the way around the globe. On March 28, 2001, a Hamas suicide bomber walked down the street from his home and blew up two schoolchildren and injured four others—including a teenage boy from Long Island who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time—at a gas station near the Israeli town of Kfar Saba.
Turner turned toward the defense table and declared: "The fuel for this man's organization is sitting right across the room—Arab Bank." He told the jury that Jordan's dominant financial institution, which has a Manhattan branch, provided banking services for Hamas. And much of the money that Arab Bank processed to organize these attacks, he said, "flowed right down the middle of Madison Avenue." Turner promised to prove it all. "What we have been able to assemble," he said, "is devastating."
The man who assembled much of the proof, and hired Turner to present it, is a shy misplaced historian named Gary Osen. Osen finished his dual degrees in law and history at George Washington University in 1993. He wrote his master's thesis on America's undeclared naval warfare of 1940, and he was the first to unearth Franklin Roosevelt's shoot-on-sight orders. "I like to be the first to see documents," he says.
On the day after the attacks of Sept 11, 2001, Osen learned of a New Jersey neighbor whose husband was killed at the World Trade Center and needed legal advice. Osen was already an expert on historical reparations for Holocaust victims—a passion developed with his father, Max, who fled Germany as a Jewish child in 1937 and returned as an American liberator in 1945.
As Osen researched Saudi financing of al-Qaida, he became increasingly convinced that there were cases to be brought related to the financing of Hamas and the ongoing Palestinian intifada. In April 2002, the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Intifada al Quds held a telethon to raise money (which it says was strictly humanitarian). The same month, in the wake of a bombing that killed 30 at the Park Hotel in Netanya, the Israeli military captured records in the West Bank that allegedly linked Arab Bank with Hamas. "I kept wondering: How does that actually work?" says Osen. "How does the bank know who to pay?"
In summer 2004, Osen gathered several U.S. victims of the intifada and filed the first case against Arab Bank under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act. The law held several advantages over the better-known Alien Tort Statute, which was then in vogue among international human rights lawyers. The ATA offered treble damages and attorney fees, and Osen perceived helpful language in its text on material support, knowledge, and causation (just how helpful remains to be seen). And because the antiterror statute was expressly designed for U.S. plaintiffs who are hurt overseas, it sidesteps any litigation over the extraterritorial application of U.S. laws—the issue that virtually killed the corporate alien tort at the U.S. Supreme Court last year in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum
Pursuing the more direct but less fashionable route, Osen has come to spearhead four of the seven Anti-Terrorism Act cases known to be active in the U.S. courts. [See chart: The Terror Docket.] In the Arab Bank case, and in litigation against Chiquita Brands International Inc., the alien tort plaintiffs have been sidelined after Kiobel, leaving Osen to occupy the field. Whether through luck or wisdom, he has avoided a generation-long blind alley. 
The Anti-Terrorism Act is alive. Linde v. Arab Bank will show whether it's a viable way to hold alleged funders of terror accountable.
As openings continued in Brooklyn beside the giant poster of Sheikh Yassin, Osen cocounsel Mark Werbner proclaimed: "Money is the oxygen that feeds this kind of terrorism." According to Michael Elsner, who delivered the plaintiffs' third presentation on Thursday, the Saudi Committee funneled $35 million through Arab Bank to casualties or prisoners of the intifada—including $5,300 to the family of each "martyr." (Arab Bank says that included any Palestinian killed in the intifada, and not just suicide bombers.)
Elsner told the jury his team would prove payments to the families of 24 suicide bombers and about 150 operatives. Werbner promised to show transfers of $2.5 million to 11 designated terrorists. As a preview, Elsner flashed on the courtroom screens a bank record showing a $5,300 payment from the Saudi committee to the father of Sa'id al-Hutari, who killed 21 youths waiting outside a disco in the Dolphinarium district of Tel Aviv on June 1, 2001. Turner showed a $60,000 payment to Sheikh Yassin, processed by Arab Bank two days earlier.
"What did the bank know and when did they know it?" asked Werbner. He said an Arab Bank witness would testify that he never noticed a notation marked on a bank record—Amaliya Istishhadiya—meaning "suicide bomber." Another Arab Bank witness, Elsner said, would testify that he didn't look at a column on a wire transfer listing the deceased's cause of death as suicide bombing. Amaliya Istishhadiya, Werbner kept intoning. "They knew full well," said Tab Turner.
Hamas hosted hero's funerals for suicide bombers, sometimes hung celebratory posters outside Arab Bank branches and held parades down Main Street near Arab Bank branches, the plaintiffs' lawyers claimed. Arab Bank briefly required employees to donate 5 percent of their salaries to support the intifada, they added. In the bank's 2003 annual report, then-chair Abdul Majid Shoman used language that, to Werbner, smacked of a "political military manifesto." Shoman told shareholders: "Our operations in Palestine suffered from harsh conditions due to the continued violence and injustices of the occupying enemy." (Arab Bank says Shoman was speaking of the Israeli military, not civilians.)
The Saudi Committee would literally run ads in the top Palestinian newspapers directing the families of listed martyrs to go to the nearest Arab Bank branch to receive their payments, Elsner said. In February 2002, Al Hayat ran a near-full page ad requesting that "the relatives of the martyrs, whose name hereby follow … head for the Arab Bank branches in their places of residence in order to receive the 10th payment from the honorable Saudi Committee—a sum of 5,316.06 USD for each family." Amaliya Istishhadiya, Werbner kept intoning. "They knew full well," said Tab Turner.
Shand Stephens of DLA Piper opened for Arab Bank with a photo of the bank's Amman headquarters. But because a bank is "really made of people," and not of glass, concrete and steel, he spent more time on a slide of 15 Arab men in suits—speaking of the bank's executives with a tone of pride and affection.
Arab Bank's leaders have been victims of terror themselves, Stephens said. Former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri, whose family remains the bank's largest investor, was assassinated in 2005. The brother of current Arab Bank chairman Sabih Al-Masri was assassinated in 1985, allegedly because he cooperated with Israel while serving as mayor of Nablus. Al-Masri also suffered a bombing at his Saudi residential compound and at the Grand Hyatt hotel he owns in Amman. The bank's head in the Palestinian territories, Shukry Bishara, ate at a Sbarro pizzeria that was bombed. Bishara's daughters attended a Lycée Francais steps away from another bombing.
Shand Stephens flashed on the screen the iconic photo of Bill Clinton, Yitzchak Rabin and Yassir Arafat from the Oslo peace accord of 1994. That was the moment when Arab Bank returned to the Palestinian territories. Bishara returned personally, Stephens said, because "he thought it was a great thing both for Arab Bank and actually for the peace process." After all, Stephens said, Arab Bank is helping to ensure that there is a viable local economy to build on when peace finally comes.
(Osen responded in an interview: "This lawsuit is not intended, nor will it undermine, economic development in the Palestinian territories. This lawsuit is not about politics. We stand for the proposition that deliberately targeting civilians is simply never justified.")
Stephens spent the lion's share of his 90 minutes arguing that Arab Bank did exactly what it was supposed to do as a bank. He explained how the U.S. State Department, Treasury Department, and White House compose lists of designated terrorists that are pooled to form the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) watch list. "In short," he said, "it's the government who decides who the criminals are." You take the list, put it in the computer and then rely on that to make sure you're not financing terrorists, he said. "This is the way, by the way, that banking works."
Then Stephens stepped in a no-go zone. "There's no evidence a single penny was spent on terror," he told the jury. U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan struck the statement from the record. "There are rulings," said the judge sternly.
Cogan was referring to sanctions issued in 2010 by his predecessor on the case, Nina Gershon—a huge pretrial victory for the plaintiffs that Arab Bank has failed for four years to overturn. Because Gershon found that Arab Bank did not cooperate in discovery of its Middle Eastern bank records, she ruled that the jury will be permitted to infer that Arab Bank served terrorists knowingly—and Arab Bank is precluded from claiming that it did not.
Arab Bank has protested that the sanctions virtually doom it to a show trial. "In practical effect, [these sanctions] go a long way toward directing a liability verdict against the bank," its lawyers complained in objecting motions. "The jury, likely to be emotionally charged by descriptions of heinous acts … will be allowed (in practice, encouraged) to infer that the bank had the [needed] intent." Such "draconian sanctions," the bank asserted, "effectively invite the jury to find liability."
Legally, the bank argued that the sanctions offended comity and due process, and forced it into the Hobson's choice of violating U.S. discovery rules or Middle Eastern privacy laws. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit declined to review the question before trial. The U.S. solicitor general showed sympathy but recommended that the U.S. Supreme Court take a pass for now, which it did when the justices denied Arab Bank's cert petition in June.
Paradoxically, Arab Bank's straitjacket may have given it the guts to go through with this trial because it believes its prospects on appeal are outstanding. On the basis of recent Supreme Court cases in other contexts, DLA argues that the Anti-Terrorism Act requires a showing that the injury would not have occurred "but for" the defendant's acts. Osen argues that he will prevail under the Second Circuit's precedent, which he believes requires only that the defendant's acts be a "substantial factor" in the chain of causation, and that the injury be foreseeable. Judge Cogan has deferred the question. In any event, the bank sees the jury presumptions as its appellate ace in the hole. Osen professes to be unworried. He's safe, he says, so long as the jury has ample grounds to conclude that the bank knowingly served terrorists based on what the plaintiffs have shown.
In the here and now, neither side is punting the trial, which resumes Monday.
Arab Bank's defense is well summarized by U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein's logic in dismissing a companion case in 2012: "Hamas is not the defendant; the bank is. And the evidence does not prove that the bank acted with an improper state of mind."
Of 12 alleged Hamas charities, Stephens argued on Thursday, none was designated as a terror group when Arab Bank did business with them. According to Stephens, another set of Arab Bank customers alleged to be senior Hamas leaders contained no one designated as a terrorist by the U.S., European Union or United Nations. The Saudi Committee has never been listed, he said, and none of the 73 Saudi Committee payments routed through New York went to a designated terrorist. Of 97 questioned customers for which Arab Bank processed payments in New York, only three were on the designated list, notably Sheikh Yassin. Of 16 alleged Hamas leaders who did business with Arab Bank, none was ever listed on the EU or U.N. terror lists. And only two were eventually listed by the U.S., again including Sheikh Yassin.
To Osen and company, the fact that official diplomats usually lack the nerve or knowledge to call a terrorist a terrorist is not a defense. On the contrary, it's the raison d'être for private terror litigation, which has sometimes been called plaintiffs' diplomacy. But Arab Bank maintains that it followed the regulations. The handful of exceptions, it says, flowed from innocent mistakes—or tragicomic misspellings.
When Arab Bank processed a $60,000 payment to Yassin two days before the Dolphinarium bombing, OFAC cleared the transaction. Why? Because Sheikh Ahmed Yassin had a name that can be misspelled in myriad ways. Shand Stephens displayed a slide showing eight variant spellings of Yassin by the plaintiffs' own experts. The bank transfer had him as Ahmad Ismail Yasine. In 1995 OFAC had him as Shaykh Ahmad Yasin. In 2003 OFAC had him as Sheik Ahmed Yassin. One gets the sense that Mouamar Qadaffi (Muamar Kaddafi?) could have used the U.S. Mint as terror HQ without getting caught. 
Anyone who stares at Sheikh Yassin's face may be able to sense evil. But his name sounded harmless to a dumb government computer circa 2001. Arab Bank says that's good enough. Will a Brooklyn jury demand more?