Photo: Katya Wachtel for Business Insider
After a two year wait, the criminal trial of Raj Rajaratnam finally began yesterday.The ball got rolling at a little past nine o’clock in the morning, when Raj stepped out of a black SUV, walked slowly across the pavement while mobbed by photographers and camera men, then slipped into the courthouse.
It was a long day.
Here are the highlights:
- Prosecutors worried there’s going to be a repeat of the Martha Stewart jury selection: Now it was a little muffled, but what we could glean was that prosecutors were nervous of a repeat of the Martha Stewart trial in which jury selection was conducted in a robing room. The Judge reassured the men that all voir dire would be conducted in the public courtroom, and sidebars would be used only for juror confidentiality. That’s where all the interesting stuff happens — the sidebar. Potential jurors go off to that sidebar sometimes for a talk, and then poof, they’re excused.
- The Tepper moment: “I know someone who owns a hedge fund,” a female juror said in response to Judge Holwell’s question about whether or not she knew anyone in the financial services industry. She didn’t know the name of the fund, but what was his name? It was David Tepper, the founder of Appaloosa.
- The Al Sharpton moment: Holwell asked potential jurors if they, or any family members or friends were involved with lobby groups or political organisations, which might impact their ability to be impartial. A loud booming voice came over the speakers, and declared “I have a 30 year friendship with Reverend Al Sharpton”… Everyone laughed. He was excused.
- realising that every company that is vaguely connected to the trial has sent minions to watch the case
- Spying on Raj: While the camera mob remained outside, we quickly followed Raj through the revolving doors to the security check. It was literally Raj, two men, then Clusterstock — an intimate affair. In real life, Raj is medium height, round, with a cherub face and one that, going through security at least, had a cheerful, contented coutenance. He was wearing a navy blue, patterned tie and a crisp white shirt and was carrying one phone. As he exited security, he paused to put on his coat, had a verbal exchange with the man standing next to us, and by default of being in his eyeline, we got a smile and a nod.
- In the audience: mystery observers, model-like blondes, and a lawyer who likes mozzarella: The line to get into the courtroom began with a tall young woman with perfectly coiffed blond hair and a black jacket. We were the rejects — the one’s relegated to the overflow room (ie. a spare courtroom with a live recording of the court — like CSPAN… but with no creativity. I know what you’re thinking, but you have no idea what the changing of a camera angle — or the not changing — can do for the viewer). I met a youngish lawyer who was “representing another person in the mix” but wouldn’t say more. I met a lawyer in a cognac suede jacket who worked nearby, and wanted to catch “the beginning, some of the middle, and the end.” We talked about how great it would be if Lloyd Blankfein testifies, to which the youngish lawyer astutely said: “He gets to the good guy for once, I guess.” Good point. Older lawyer said: “I’ve seen him a few times, uptown. He really stands out. Even in the dark, he stands out…” He then suggested some mozarella vendors, also uptown.
- A moment with Raj’s lawyer, John Dowd: Dowd is hard to miss. We saw him coming from a mile away; he’s tall, and you barely noticed the four or five men scurrying around him because he is clearly the man. He walked briskly and with purpose down the hall, and said “Good Morning” and nodded at us as he walked by. His tie was green.