Reginald Fowler’s lawyers confirmed that money is indeed at the center of a conflict between them and their client — and the main reason why they want to withdraw from the case.
The news was revealed Friday in a telephone status call attended by Assistant US Attorneys Jessica Greenwood, Sheb Swett and Sam Rothschild; Fowler’s defense team, James McGovern, Michael Hefter, and Sam Rackear of Hogan Lovells, and Scott Rosenblum of Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry; and Fowler himself.
Fowler, a former NFL investor — who resides in Chandler, Arizona, and is free on bail — is accused of setting up a shadow banking service that has been linked to Crypto Capital, a Panamanian firm at the center of the New York Attorney General’s investigation into crypto firms Bitfinex and Tether.
As I wrote earlier, Fowler’s defense counsel have been careful about disclosing details on why they want to ditch their client, who they have been working with since Fowler was indicted in April 2019.
District Judge Andrew Carter began the call: “Defense, can you give me a little further elucidation regarding the grounds for your seeking to be relieved without getting into any privileged or confidential materials?”
Fowler’s attorney McGovern said the matter involved privileged and confidential information but added: “I think it is fair to say that it is of the nature that the government assumes in their filing, of a fee-based nature.”
Judge Carter cut straight to the heart of the matter: “So it is fair to say, without getting into the details, this is about lawyers not getting paid?”
“Yes,” McGovern answered, but added it was “a little bit more than that.” He then suggested that his team file an ex-parte submission setting out the nature and specifics of the request to withdraw. “That way, we’ll provide the court with a substantial amount of information that will provide color for the entire discussion,” he said.
Fowler is represented by two legal firms. Carter asked if the nature of the conflict was the same for both firms. “Yes,” responded Rosenblum, Fowler’s attorney at the second law firm.
Federal prosecutors have argued that Fowler’s defense can’t simply withdraw from the case without giving some type of explanation.
US Assistant Attorney Greenwood reiterated that argument, telling the judge that “there are significant portions of a fee arrangement that are not potentially privileged.” She suggested Fowler’s attorneys provide details in an ex-parte and then allow the government to access the non-privileged portions “so we can appropriately respond to the motion to withdraw.”
Judge Carter agreed to allow Fowler’s defense team to file a submission under seal. “Once I receive those materials,” he said, “I will make a determination as to whether or not the document will remain under seal or whether or not there are portions that can, in fact, and should, in fact, be redacted and other portions that should be made public.”
The defense counsel said they would submit the document on Nov. 18.
So where is Fowler’s money?
Fowler has been having money problems for a while—problems that extend back to when the US Department of Justice froze his bank accounts in late 2018, leading to the collapse of the Alliance of American Football, a new football league that he cofounded and was a major investor in.
From there, things seem to have gotten worse.
Recall that in January 2020, Fowler rejected a plea deal that would have required him to forfeit $371 million. It was the forfeiture requirements that blew up the deal. Prosecutors hit back with a superseding indictment that added a new count: wire fraud.
On October 15, Law360, reported that Fowler’s legal team might be open to exploring for a second time potential options to resolve the charges, even though the new wire fraud charge complicated things.
And then, on October 23, Fowler’s defense team went to the court seeking to modify conditions of his bond so that he could pay for his defense. (Here is the original May 2019 bond conditions; here is their request for a change.)
Specifically, they wanted to change the bond conditions to enable Fowler to take credit out on properties he had acquired prior to February 2018 “when the alleged conspiracy began” without approval from pretrial services. And to remove the five properties posted as security for the $5 million bond.
Those properties, based on a rough estimate of looking at them on Zillow, are probably only worth around $1.5 million total.
Whatever happened after that — it clearly wasn’t enough to satisfy his attorneys.
Updated Nov. 14 to add the bit about Fowler’s accounts getting frozen in 2018 and the AAF.