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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ben Kuehne Wins Appellate Claim on Money Laundering Counts

I suspect one issue every criminal defense attorney will blog on this week is the decision on Ben Kuehne.

Here it is in full:

The federal appeals panel sided with Kuehne, who was accused of a crime for giving advice to attorneys for an accused Medellin cocaine cartel kingpin.

The Atlanta-based panel's ruling was a blow to the U.S. Justice Department, as the case tests whether federal prosecutors could charge a defense lawyer with money laundering under anti-drug laws that target profits from trafficking.

The ruling found that a lower court judge was "eminently correct" to dismiss the unprecedented indictment against Kuehne and two others on money laundering charges under the federal statute. It concluded that Kuehne was protected by an exemption in federal money-laundering statutes carved out by Congress for defense attorneys in 1988.

"This is a huge win not just for Ben Kuehne but for criminal defense lawyers," said David O. Markus, a Miami attorney who helped write a friend of the court brief on Kuehne's behalf for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. David publishes his own blog which you can link to.

"It sends the message to the government that criminal defendants are entitled to representation and criminal defense lawyers are entitled to represent clients without having this dark cloud hanging over their heads."

Meanwhile, no word on what prosecutors will do with the remaining counts against Kuehne, but he has a broad cross section of support from the best attorneys in South Florida and around the country. Many practitioners are of the belief, this legal blogger included, that the US government went off the deep end on this one.

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