Hurricane Brooks: The Trial of the Century (Finally) Ends

The trial of the century in the United States--hands down, don't even try to compare it with anything else-- began eight months ago in the wind and snow of New York's Long Island. It ended suddenly Tuesday morning in late-summer sunshine when federal jurors finally convicted David H. Brooks, the former body armor manufacturer and newborn television legend.

What made special the longest trial anyone can remember in Central Islip wasn't that it ultimately generated guilty verdicts against the former body armor manufacturer on all 17 counts against him--corporate fraud, insider trading, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, etc. Federal prosecutors clearly had a strong case to present. And U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert generally allowed them to present it over the protestations of defense attorneys.

What made the trial truly unique was the chaotic, even devilish way in which it unfolded. Unwieldy, threatening, full of sound and fury and breathtaking moments, Hurrricane Brooks might be the simplest way to describe the tumult that took place at the (relatively) new Alphone D'Amato United States Courthouse. At times, there was as much drama and intrigue in the courtroom outside of the presence of jurors as there was when jurors were present and receiving evidence. And it's not like jurors were all angels, either, or the case on the merits was a yawner.

Too salacious perhaps for The New York Times (which chimed in here in mid-trial), apparently too much trouble for the Associated Press, and unrecordable as a federal trial court proceeding, the Brooks trial might have been lost to posterity had it not been for veteran Newsday reporter Robert Kessler. Fortunately, for history's sake and our own, the brave and dutiful Kessler (he was the target of defense motions toward the end of the trial) regularly covered the proceedings--the only journalist to do so by anyone's reckoning. His post-verdict piece just drips with understatement. Of the Brooks trial, Kessler wrote

It's not an everyday federal trial in which an FBI agent walks into a courtroom in the middle of a trial and seizes the contents of a defendant's wastebasket as part of a still ongoing investigation into whether Brooks tampered with the jury. Or in which the defense asserts that the payment of company money to prostitutes might be an acceptable technique to motivate employees. Or in which a defendant says he is entitled to have his company pay for the grave of his mother, camp tuition for his children, a $60,000 sculpture of a Wall Street bull, family trips to St. Barts and St. Tropez, or allegedly drains millions of dollars off through a shell company to pay for the upkeep of harness stables.

Indeed, no one closely involved in United States v. Brooks et al. will likely ever forget it or fail to re-tell its most bizarre moments. There was of course the interesting (but all-too-familiar) crime--looting a valuable company out of hundreds of millions of dollars which was then lavishly spent. There was salacious evidence of corporate funds spent on "brothel tents" at parties and $35,000 worth of pens and memory-erasure drugs. But the trial itself generated the need for body cavity searches. And secret notes subsequently found. And the involvement of Scotland Yard. And a juror who had to leave duty to serve time in jail. You could make a decent movie out of the crime. Or you could make a solid movie out of the trial. Or you could make a really good movie out of both. Just sayin.'

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Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He is a legal analyst for 60 Minutes and CBS Radio News, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, and Commentary Editor at The Marshall Project

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