May 24, 2024

DealBook: Stack of Evidence Sealed Galleon Case, Juror Says

“Dear Honorable Judge Holwell,” the handwritten note from the foreman read last Wednesday morning, “the jury has come to a unanimous decision.”

Then, minutes later, the stress and emotion that had been building for two months spilled out into the tight quarters of the deliberation room at the United States District Court in Manhattan. Tears flowed. Jurors hugged, trading words of comfort, while others stepped into the bathroom to compose themselves. One juror asked that they say a prayer, so the group huddled and prayed.

They prayed, said Leila Gonzalez Gorman, one of the jurors, for the witnesses, their families, their children and their parents. And they prayed for Raj Rajaratnam, the billionaire hedge fund manager whom they had just found guilty of all 14 counts of conspiracy and securities fraud brought against him, capping one of the largest insider trading cases in a generation.

Still, for all the emotion at the end, Ms. Gorman said the jury was clear-eyed and confident about the decision it handed to Judge Richard J. Holwell.

“My impression was that he thought he could get away with what he was doing because he never got his hands dirty,” said Ms. Gorman, a 44-year-old second grade teacher from Westchester County.

“He was the mastermind, and everything pointed to the mastermind,” she added.

In a wide-ranging interview in the lobby of her apartment building on Saturday, Ms. Gorman talked about the trial that consumed more than two months of her life and the lives of her fellow jurors. She said the jury — a hodgepodge of government workers, teachers and professionals from Westchester County, Manhattan and the Bronx — was swayed by the constellation of evidence and witness testimony that showed that Mr. Rajaratnam had carefully collected illegal tips and based his trades on that information.

Since the jury announced its verdict, much of the focus has been on the government’s wiretap evidence that caught Mr. Rajaratnam swapping stock tips with a range of sources. Yet Ms. Gorman said the recordings were not necessarily the smoking guns.

“I wouldn’t exactly say the tapes were the most convincing,” she said. “There were numerous things that were convincing. We looked at e-mails, we matched conversations, we looked at the graphs.” The jurors, armed with a pile of sticky notes and colored markers, meticulously pooled their notes together to reconstruct the timeline around Mr. Rajaratnam’s trades in stocks like Clearwire and Intel.

She said the timing of his trades — often struck minutes after telephone calls with his informants — was simply too uncanny.

“We said, ‘On this day he was going short, short, short,’“ she said. “So how would you know that, unless you had a little birdie whispering in your ear?”

She added, “He knew exactly when to go big.”

In part, Ms. Gorman formed a negative opinion of Mr. Rajaratnam because of the name of his hedge fund, the Galleon Group.

“Galleon buccaneers, those are pirates, and he named his company after pirates,” she said. “And if you look at the history of pirates, they’re thieves.”

The jury also formed strong impressions of the witnesses, a cast of characters that included the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and members of Mr. Rajaratnam’s once-tight inner circle. The defense repeatedly attacked the credibility of the government’s cooperating witnesses, but Ms. Gorman said she didn’t buy it. She said she believed the testimonies of Rajiv Goel, Anil Kumar and Adam Smith — the government’s three main witnesses.

The testimony of Mr. Blankfein also had a lasting impact — but not because she was starstruck. Ms. Gorman said she didn’t really know who he was.

“When they said he is the C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs, I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, I hope he’s not one of these guys, what is going on here?,” she said. Mr. Blankfein testified that a former Goldman director had leaked confidential board discussions to Mr. Rajaratnam.

“But when he actually talked, I thought, ‘Oh good, he’s honest.’”

She warmed to his appearance and his demeanor, a “cute little smirk, a painted-on smile, well-spoken, bright-eyed,” she said. But it seems the Wall Street titan did not hold a candle to the three clean-cut prosecutors — Jonathan Streeter, Reed Brodsky and Andrew Michaelson.

“We called them all gorgeous,” Ms. Gorman said. “They were all hot.” She nicknamed Mr. Brodsky Napoleon, a tribute to his fiery attitude and how he dramatically brushed back his dark hair with his hand. She said the female jurors often joked about calling “dibs” on the more attractive members of the courtroom.

The 12 days of deliberation were punctuated by moments of levity, but the jurors approached the case with gravity. After the group was dismissed for deliberations, the jury sat silent for about 20 minutes, absorbing the herculean task ahead. Then they dove into the files, methodically laying out all the charges and assigning specific roles. If a someone wanted to speak, the juror would have to raise a hand.

Although there were several tense moments — Ms. Gorman recalls telling one juror, “You can’t tell me not to go to the bathroom, go to hell” — she said they rarely disagreed on the facts of the case.

At the beginning of the deliberations, two jurors were less convinced of Mr. Rajaratnam’s guilt, largely moved by his philanthropic efforts in support of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit group. Geoffrey Canada, the head of that organization, testified as a character witness for the defense.

“They were just sympathetic because he gave money to Harlem, so they wanted to see the good side.”

However, as the group analyzed the evidence, consensus quickly built. By April 29, the jurors were unanimous that he was guilty on all five conspiracy charges. Last Tuesday, the group was mainly settled on the remainder of the charges, but Wilson Thomas Jr., the alternate juror who came in as a last-minute replacement, needed a few more hours to meditate on the case.

The next day, Ms. Gorman bought several $2 scratch lottery tickets. It was her gift to her fellow jurors and a nod to a weekly tradition. On each Thursday during the trial, the group would pool their dollar bills and buy lottery tickets. She suspected they might not be together the next day.

And that morning, Mr. Thomas was ready and the jury took a final vote.

In the end, what brought down Mr. Rajaratnam was what lawyers refer to as those sticky facts, Ms. Gorman said.

“There were too many conversations and things from the testimonies that were leaning towards guilt,” she said.

Ben Protess contributed reporting.

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