Feds Dismiss Money Laundering Case Against Miami Lawyer

Congrats to Ben Kuehne. After two years of being under federal indictment for money laundering resulting from legal advice he gave regarding accepting legal fees from a cocaine trafficker, the Government moved today to dismiss the case, with prejudice.

Federal authorities decided to give up their closely watched case against Ben Kuehne, who advised defense attorney Roy Black to accept $5.2 million in payments from defendant Fabio Ochoa after concluding the money was clean.

Prosecutors said they dismissed the indictment against Kuehne -- citing ``the interests of justice'' -- mainly because of the recent loss of a crucial appeal over a money-laundering charge that was the backbone of their case, according to a court filing.

Kuehne's reaction: [More...]

``We are all fortunate to be able to say that we have a Justice Department whose goal is to try to do the right thing -- not to win at all costs.''
...``This decision is a complete vindication of everything I have fought for in my 30 years of practicing the law.''

Kuehne was a very accomplished attorney prior to his indictment.

He had served on the Florida Bar board of governors, as a past president of the Dade County Bar Association and as a member of Vice President Al Gore's legal team in the 2000 Florida presidential election dispute.

His case came to symbolize the legal struggle between a defendant's right to a lawyer and the U.S. government's power to limit it. Hundreds of lawyers -- including a former chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court -- rallied behind him, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to his legal defense.

Last month, the 11th Circuit upheld the trial court's ruling tossing the central money laundering charge:

The appellate court found that the district judge, Cooke, was ``eminently correct'' to throw out the charge. Cooke said Kuehne was protected by an exemption carved out by Congress in a 1988 money-laundering law, noting that the ability of a drug defendant to pay legal fees was central to the constitutional right to counsel.

Our post on the 11th Circuit decision is here, and our initial post about Ben's indictment and why it was an outrageous prosecution is here. I ended that post with:

I'm going to be following this case and looking forward to the day I can announce the case has been thrown out or Ben's been acquitted.

I'm glad to say today's the day. Kudos to the many defense lawyers who worked to help Ben achieve this result.

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  • Display: Sort:
    A Happy Thanskgiving (none / 0) (#1)
    by scribe on Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 08:26:35 PM EST
    if ever there was one - not only for Kuehne, but also for anyone needing a lawyer.  Because this was as blatant an attack on the whole idea of the right to counsel as there has been in a long, long time.

    Congratulations (none / 0) (#2)
    by Mikeb302000 on Thu Nov 26, 2009 at 04:03:34 AM EST
    to Ben Kuehne and all the lawyers.

    but wait! (none / 0) (#3)
    by cpinva on Fri Nov 27, 2009 at 09:25:39 AM EST
    if the state isn't able to keep defendants from obtaining competent counsel, how will they ever successfully prosecute anyone?

    i mean, they'd have to make a real, compelling, "beyond a reasonable doubt" case and all.