Retired federal judge John Gleeson was recently appointed by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to argue against dismissal of the case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and to advise him on whether the court should substitute its own charge of charge for Flynn for now claiming innocence. I have been highly critical of Sullivan’s orders and particularly the importation of third parties to make arguments that neither party supports in a criminal case. Now Gleeson has filed a brief that confirms the worst fears that many of us had about his appointment. Gleeson assails what he called “a trumped-up accusation of government misconduct.” The ultimate position advocated in Gleeson’s arguments would be a nightmare for criminal defendants, criminal defense counsel and civil libertarians. Indeed, as discussed below, Gleeson was previously reversed as a judge for usurping the authority of prosecutors.
Gleeson actually makes the Red Queen in “Alice in Wonderland” look like an ACLU lawyer. After all she just called for “Sentence First–Verdict Afterward” Gleeson is dispensing with any need for verdict on perjury, just the sentence. However, since these arguments are viewed as inimical to the Trump Administration, many seem blind to the chilling implications.
In his 82-page filing Gleeson notably rejects the idea of a perjury charge, which I previously criticized as a dangerous and ridiculous suggestion despite the support from many legal analysts. He notes that such a move would be “irregular” and
“I respectfully suggest that the best response to Flynn’s perjury is not to respond in kind. Ordering a defendant to show cause why he should not be held in contempt based on a perjurious effort to withdraw a guilty plea is not what judges typically do. To help restore confidence in the integrity of the judicial process, the Court should return regularity to that process.”
This seems a carefully crafted way of saying that the many calls for a perjury charge are as out of line with prior cases as what these same critics allege was done by the Justice Department.
However, Gleeson is not striking an independent or principled position. Rather, he is suggesting that the Court simply treat Flynn as a perjurer, punish him as a perjurer, but not give him a trial as a perjurer. Thus, he is advocating that the court “should take Flynn’s perjury into account in sentencing him on the offense to which he has already admitted guilty.”
Thus, according to Gleeson, the Court should first sentence a defendant on a crime that the prosecutors no longer believe occurred in a case that prosecutors believe (and many of us have argued) was marred by the own misconduct. He would then punish the defendant further by treating his support for dismissal and claims of coercion as perjury. That according to former judge Gleeson is a return to “regularity.” I have been a criminal defense attorney for decades and I have never even heard of anything like that. It is not “regular.” It is ridiculous.
Gleeson himself came in for criticism in the filing by Flynn’s counsel who note that the former judge appointed by Sullivan not only publicly advocated against Flynn’s position but as a judge was chastised by the Second Circuit for misusing his position to grandstand in a case involving a deferred prosecution agreement. The defense cited HSBC Bank USA, N.A., 863 F.3d 125, 136 (2d Cir. 2017) where the Second Circuit reversed Gleeson for exaggerating his role in a way that “would be to turn the presumption of regularity on its head.”
The similarities to the present case are notable, including arguments that Gleeson intruded upon prosecutorial discretion. The Second Circuit held: