In his story on the Yagman sentencing, anti-LAPD reporter Scott Glover gives prominence to the theme that the government picked on Yagman because he is an anti-establishment hero. Here are the first few paragraphs of Glover’s article. Pay special attention to whose spin is given the primary emphasis.
Stephen G. Yagman, a pugnacious lawyer who made a career of suing the Los Angeles Police Department and other law enforcement agencies, was sentenced Tuesday to three years in federal prison for tax evasion, money laundering and bankruptcy fraud.
He did not go quietly — or quickly.
In an unusual courtroom hearing that spanned three days, Yagman and his attorneys painstakingly went over the evidence in the case and accused the U.S. attorney of targeting him because of his long and confrontational history with the federal government.
“A cage went in search of a bird,” Yagman told U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson, quoting from Franz Kafka’s book “The Zurau Aphorisms.” “I’m the bird, and they got me.”
Wearing a blue suit and a sailboat-decorated tie, Yagman also quoted from, or referred to, Woody Allen, Abraham Lincoln and Socrates during more than four hours of oration. At times, he was remorseful, but for the most part, he was defensive.
Government officials, he said, “want to scorch everything around me . . . destroy me.”
Yagman’s sentence, which includes an additional two years of supervised release after his prison term, was significantly less than the nine years that prosecutors had recommended. He is scheduled to surrender to authorities and begin serving his sentence Jan. 15.
The convictions, in all likelihood, mark an end to Yagman’s work as a litigator. It was a career in which he occasionally broke new legal ground and antagonized some of L.A.’s most powerful leaders, often while representing gang members and other criminals who allegedly had been abused by the police.
That’s eight paragraphs packed with Yagman spin about about how this was a politically motivated prosecution against a crusading civil rights attorney. Finally, in paragraph nine, Glover quotes Judge Stephen Wilson as saying that Yagman was guilty and the jury got it right.
Glover probably figures that if he puts the pro-Yagman spin up high, the other stuff that he has to include for “balance” might be stuffed on the back pages. I don’t have the hard copy of the paper to see if this tactic worked; I’ll try to check it out today and report back later. If you have a hard copy, let me know where the jump happens — assuming that this story even made it to the front of the California section.
Not only did Wilson say Yagman was guilty, he said Yagman was a liar — and a bad one:
Ultimately, the judge said he concluded that Yagman had not only committed the crimes, but also lied and fabricated evidence to cover his tracks.
“Frankly, I was shocked by his testimony,” Wilson said, calling it “transparently untrue in so many areas.”
In discussing the facts, Glover retreats to the allegations of the indictment, as if there had been no trial:
The government’s investigation spanned five years and centered on a tax liability totaling more than $100,000. Yagman was indicted in June 2006 on 19 counts of tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud and money laundering.
And what was he convicted of?
According to prosecutors, Yagman transferred his Venice Beach home into his girlfriend’s name, hid money by depositing his income into her bank account — from which he wrote checks — and declared bankruptcy in New York without disclosing his assets in California.
Shortly after claiming he was broke, prosecutors said Yagman spent $2,000 on clothes and shoes on New York’s Madison Avenue, then had a $260 dinner.
Guess what? The jury convicted on all counts (although, unreported in this story, Judge Wilson later overturned some of the guilty verdicts on technical grounds). We’re not just talking about allegations here, or what “prosecutors said” — we’re talking about what the jury found, and what the judge confirmed the jury was right to find.
For a more revealing story, read Patrick McDonald’s L.A. Weekly piece on the sentencing, here.
P.S. I’ll reiterate, as I have before, that I disapprove of prison rape jokes, even about Yagman — and it’s unfortunate that one such joke was made on this site by a commenter, and quoted in the L.A. Weekly article. I will tell you this: the commenter who made the joke
had his career essentially ruined by lost a job opportunity due to the actions of Yagman despite having done absolutely nothing wrong. (I spoke with the commenter about his situation on the phone several weeks ago.) Due to the fact that Yagman named the commenter (along with dozens on others) as a defendant in a lawsuit — simply because his name had appeared in a report somewhere — the commenter missed out on a job opportunity he had sought for years. He ended up testifying in the suit for five minutes about his complete lack of involvement in the events at issue, and was dismissed out — but the damage was already done. Police departments don’t like to hire defendants in lawsuits, and during the years-long pendency of the suit, he lost his other opportunity. So while I deplore his prison rape joke, the commenter had good reason to be upset at Yagman. I may tell his story here in detail some day. Yagman affected a lot of people in a negative fashion, and there is indeed a lot of glee among law enforcement types now that he is going to prison.
UPDATE: The commenter clarifies that his career wasn’t “ruined” — that was poor phrasing on my part. He did lose out on a job opportunity that had a significant effect on his life, however. Apologies for the infelicitous phrasing.