"You’ll wear a wire on anyone we tell you to, you know everybody in this town," said Chicago FBI agent Patrick Murphy to former insurance broker Michael Segal.
But when Segal refused to cooperate and wear the wire as directed, he was arrested immediately, triggering a pre-planned raid with dozens of FBI agents descending on his homes and offices in Chicago within minutes.
The case of Michael Segal, CEO of Near North Insurance — a small firm in Chicago, that under his leadership grew into the fifth largest independent insurance brokerage company in the U.S. is yet another tragic story of prosecutorial misconduct.
In Segal’s case, not only did overzealous prosecutors with uncontrolled power destroy his life and drive him into financial ruin, but they also destroyed his $250 million insurance brokerage firm, forcing 1,000 people to lose their jobs.
Sadly however, Segal is not alone.
Many may recall the case of Sholom Rubashkin, the CEO of Agriprocessors, the largest kosher meat processing plant in the U.S. He was convicted of routine business practices in 2009. After federal authorities raided his business, Agriprocessors was forced to file for bankruptcy during a time when he was trying to sell his company. In the end, lenders lost $27 million.
On Dec. 20, 2017 President Trump commuted Rubashkin’s sentence after lawmakers, law enforcement officials and legal experts argued that his case was filled with prosecutorial misconduct.
Even then-U.S. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi signed a letter urging the president to send Rubashkin home.
And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed his support.
In 2001, federal prosecutors targeted the accounting firm Arthur Anderson, accusing them of obstruction of justice and destroying documents related to their work with Enron. In 2002, Arthur Anderson was convicted, destroying the firm and causing more than 28,000 employees to lose their jobs.
But several years later, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a rare and unanimous decision, overturned the conviction citing flawed jury instructions — signaling yet another case of prosecutorial misconduct.
In 2005, successful Chicago businessman Michael Segal was convicted of routine business practices. He was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison.
In Segal’s case, per court records, there were no losses, no fraudulent intent and no misrepresentation. Every insurance company received their premiums from Near North and every insurance client got their insurance. Yet he was sent away to prison for a decade. (See the federal district court's sentencing transcripts under Docket No. 02 CR 112, United States of America vs. Michael Segal and Near North Insurance Brokerage).
And the U.S. Attorney in Segal’s case? Patrick Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald, who is best friends with former FBI Director James Comey and the godfather to one of his children, was the U.S. attorney in three high profile cases: Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, businessman Conrad Black, and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
President Trump would later intervene to undo the wrongs committed in those three cases, pardoning Libby and Black and commuting Blagojevich’s 14-year prison sentence.
According to Segal and his legal team, federal authorities even taped over 600 hours of Segal’s phone conversations.
They even taped the conversations of his lawyers — which is unheard of, yet not a single taped conversation was ever introduced as evidence or played in court, despite the wishes of Segal and his defense team. (Source: trial transcript, at page 4776).
So, what ever happened to the federal prosecutors in these cases?
Andrew Weissmann, who is responsible for destroying Arthur Anderson went on to become General Counsel at the FBI under then Director Robert Mueller and later as Mueller’s Deputy during the now debunked Special Counsel Investigation of President Trump and his campaign.
Virginia Kendall, Patrick Fitzgerald’s lead prosecutor in the Segal case went on to become a federal judge.
And what about Michael Segal — what’s he doing now?
He’s recently written a book about prosecutorial misconduct and his experiences on the injustices of a broken criminal justice system titled, "Conviction at Any Cost."
It’s a must read.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a fair trial, yet time after time, we see federal prosecutors abusing their power with little oversight.
As William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham and former Primer Minister of England (1766-1778) said, "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it," or put another way that we may be most familiar with, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."
If we ever plan on fixing that corruption, we must start with our criminal justice system.
Mark Vargas is a trusted adviser and close confidant to some of the highest profile political and business leaders in America. From 2007 to 2010, Mr. Vargas served as a civilian within the Office of the Secretary of Defense on a special Iraq task force. In 2009 he was awarded the Secretary of Defense Global War on Terrorism Civilian Service Medal. His civilian service included 14 trips to Baghdad. Follow Mark on Twitter: @markavargas. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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