|Photo: Louis Lanzano|
The case against Thomas Early and Shona Seifert went to the jury at 1:15 p.m. today.
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BACKGROUND: THE WHITE HOUSE DRUG OFFICE ADVERTISING CASE
The Stories From 2001 to the Present
Read the 14-page indictment .pdf
Judge Richard Berman gave the jurors a detailed set of instructions on the 10 counts pending against Ms. Seifert and Mr. Early. The jurors filed out of the courtroom and into an adjacent deliberating room at about 1:15 p.m.
Looking back at the two weeks of evidence, the jury will have to determine whether the government proved there was an agreement within the WPP Group-owned agency to over-bill the Office of National Drug Control Policy account and if Mr. Early and Ms. Seifert furthered the plot.
In addition to the conspiracy charge, jurors will weigh whether the defendants submitted fraudulent vouchers to the government. Ms. Seifert, now president of Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day New York, and Mr. Early, who resigned as Ogilvy New York's finance director last year after he was indicted, face up to five years in prison and a fine if convicted.
Plot to inflate billings
During the trial in U.S. District Court in lower Manhattan, the government's lawyers argued that the defendants led a plot to inflate the hours billed on ONDCP business to make up for a $3 million revenue shortfall on the account discovered in the summer of 1999.
They showed the jury reams of internal Ogilvy documents and put several former Ogilvy staffers on the witness stand, including two who pleaded guilty to charges similar to those facing Ms. Seifert and Mr. Early.
The defense countered by distancing the clients from the actions of Ogilvy staffers who claimed to have falsified timesheets. They also called up a host of character witnesses who testified to the positive personal and professional reputations of the defendants.
This morning, Mr. Early's lead attorney, Laurence Urgenson, made his closing arguments, saying much of the evidence put on by the prosecution was of "typical business discussions" that did not indicate enough of a revenue shortfall to trigger the conspiracy.
Mr. Early "is a businessman. These are typical business discussions," Mr. Urgenson said. He also referred to a number of government witnesses who testified under cross-examination to not having dealt with Mr. Early. "Ninety percent of the witnesses in this case have nothing to do with Tom Early," Mr. Urgenson said.
He also characterized Mr. Early as "not the most articulate man you'll ever meet," but a "fundamentally descent man."