Reginald Fowler, the Arizona, businessman allegedly linked to hundreds of million of dollars in missing Crypto Capital funds, is about to lose his defense team. Did he neglect to pay them?
And knowing who their client was, did his lawyers ask for a large enough retainer in the event that something unexpected like, say, a superseding indictment might extend their work?
Crypto Capital is the payment processor that Tether and Bitfinex—and several other cryptocurrency firms—used to shuttle money around the globe as a workaround to the traditional banking system. Fowler allegedly helped out by opening up a network of bank accounts for them.
We can only guess the real reason Fowler’s lawyers are keen to drop their client at the moment, but court docs may offer clues. Here is the backstory:
Earlier this week, Fowler’s attorneys—James McGovern and Michael Hefter of Hogan Lovells US LLP—asked a New York judge for permission to withdraw from the case. (Here is their motion to withdraw filed on Nov. 9.)
(Fowler is also represented by Scott Rosenblum of Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry PC, though Rosenblum’s name is not on the motion.)
The lawyers claim they initially told Fowler their reasons for wanting to quit on February 26—coincidentally, just five days after the government added a fifth charge against Fowler in its superseding indictment and a month after Fowler forfeited on a reasonable sounding plea bargain.
In the months follower, the legal team informed Fowler both “orally and in writing on multiple occasions” of their grounds for wanting to withdraw. Now, after much back and forth, they have had enough: they are asking the court for permission to drop him.
McGovern and Hefter don’t offer a specific reason for wanting to quit in their motion, citing attorney-client privileged. But they argue the case has had “limited pertinent discovery,” Fowler has had ample time to find new counsel, and essentially, the case should go on just fine without them.
Federal prosecutors are not convinced. In a letter addressed to Andrew Carter, the Southern District of New York judge overseeing the case, they argue the defense counsel has’t presented enough facts for the court to decide on the motion. (Here is their response filed on Nov. 12.)
Specifically, they dispute the “limited pertinent discovery” claim, saying the government has so far produced over 370,000 pages of discovery, much of which they have already discussed in detail with the defense counsel.
Further, they argue that if this is about a “fee dispute,” the court needs to weigh other factors, such as “nonprivileged facts” about the fee arrangement, including whether a “more careful or prudent approach to the retainer agreement might have avoided the current problem”—i.e., McGovern and Hefter should have insisted on more money up front.
Finally, they claim that if Fowler’s lawyers’ leaving further delays the trial, the court should not allow it. After two postponements, the trial is currently scheduled for April 12, 2021. (It was originally slated to begin on April 28, 2020, and then got moved to January 11, 2021, before the current trial date.)
“Now, approximately five months before the current trial date, defense counsel seeks to withdraw from this matter based on facts they claim were discussed with the defendant as early as February 26, 2020—nearly nine months ago and before both prior adjournments in this case,” federal prosecutors said. “The current motions should be denied if allowing counsel to withdraw at this late stage would further delay trial.”
Read Part II: “Confirmed: Reggie Fowler can’t pay his lawyers“
And Part III: Reggie Fowler, man linked to missing Bitfinex funds, hoodwinks his own defense team
(This story was updated on Nov. 13 to note that Fowler is also represented by Scott Rosenblum.)