Opening Arguments At The Zvi Goffer Trial: Goffer Fired By Raj Rajaratnam For Losing Money And Lying

Zvi Goffer, You’re Fired!”  Is that a line from an upcoming episode of Celebrity Apprentice uttered by Donald Trump?   No, actually this was the dramatic opening line delivered to the jury by William R. Barzee, counsel to Zvi Goffer, as day one of the trial of Zvi, his brother Emanuel Goffer and Michael Kimelman began. 

I nearly fell out of my seat.  Mr. Barzee, a rather colourful florida-based criminal lawyer who began the day arguing with Judge Sullivan over the ability of a juror with some medical appointments to be fair, displayed both his pugnacious style and perhaps certain telltale signs of being afflicted with “legal ADD”.  In this regard, Mr. Barzee even told the jury before beginning his cross examination of the lead FBI agent that he may be a bit “all over the place”. 

He was right.  Barzee certainly gets an “A” for theatrics, calling his client Zvi a “gold miner” panning for gold along the “river of gossip”, and acknowledging that his client did in fact receive tips (perhaps in exchange for cash) from a lawyer known as the “Gossip Queen”.  Octopussy and the Gossip Queen, the next great Elton John song?  You really can not make this stuff up. 

Entertaining courtroom theatre, perhaps, but strategically sound legal representation?  In my opinion, it is awfully dangerous to repeatedly call your client a fabricator, an exaggerator, a fibber, and even perhaps a bit of a liar.  Who knows, perhaps Mr. Barzee has a sound rationale for telling the jury that Mr. Goffer was fired by Raj Rajaratnam for lying and losing boatloads of money trading, but if Zvi were to testify, I can just imagine the cross examination by prosecutor Andrew Fish:  “So Mr. Goffer, your own lawyer has called you a liar, and a guy who lives in the land of make believe.  Mr. Goffer, why exactly are we are supposed to believe your testimony now?”  Hmmm. 

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