By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
I explored McMahon's work, which was impressive, and saw that Lenard truly did seem to shut down the defense at nearly every turn, even if it seemed blatantly unfair.
In my previous article, I quoted McMahon saying, "If I was one of the lawyers, I'd be in jail for contempt right now. I would be ranting and raving. It's like the judge is saying, 'They're terrorists, so let's throw out the rulebook.' "
The story was published before the first trial ended in a hung jury. Federal prosecutors complained to the judge about the article. Lenard grilled Levin about the story in the courtroom without the jury present.
Immediately, McMahon was fearful that Lenard might not authorize payment of his work. Because Abraham is indigent, his defense is being paid by the government, and all money paid out must first be authorized by Lenard, a former Dade County prosecutor appointed by Bill Clinton in 1995.
Attorney Levin, who was surely afraid the judge might dock his own pay, truthfully told the judge that he had no contact with me regarding the article. That's when Lenard's wrath came down squarely on McMahon — and it came, literally, in a footnote.
Lenard deprived McMahon of his hard-earned money in the footer of a sealed budget document. "The Court will not recommend approval of any funds for Mr. Abraham's investigator during the first trial, Rory McMahon, due to Mr. McMahon's violation of the Court's rules during the first trial," the judge wrote.
The problem with the ruling is that McMahon never broke a court rule. The rule she cites forbids lawyers who practice in federal courts of the Southern District of Florida from releasing any information that might "interfere with a fair trial or otherwise prejudice the due administration of justice."
First, McMahon was trying to bring justice and fairness to the trial, not the other way around. Second, he's not a lawyer, and nowhere in the court's rules does it say private investigators are forbidden from releasing information.
Levin filed multiple appeals to Lenard's ruling in which he tried to explain the P.I.'s role in the article and his value to the Liberty City trial, writing that McMahon had "led the investigation and did the majority of the work."
The argument didn't impress Lenard, who made her final ruling this past December 19, denying McMahon compensation for work on the case (though she did authorize $985 in expenses).
She also barred McMahon from participating in the second and third trials.
The judge's action seems, in a perverse way, a fitting coda to the ridiculous case. During a trial that is supposedly about preserving America and its way of life, the judge basically fines a man a large sum of money and bans him from the trial for speaking out.
The final ruling means the P.I. basically has no hope of being paid for his work — something that isn't easy for McMahon, a husband and father with a mortgage, during these tough economic times. And he's taken the gloves off when it comes to Lenard. In January, he asked Congressman Alcee Hastings' office to investigate Lenard, charging that she had denied the Liberty City defendants their right to a fair trial and was guilty of malfeasance.
Hastings, however, passed the buck. Because McMahon lives in U.S. Rep. Ron Klein's office, Hastings forwarded the request to Klein, a lethargic and uninspired representative who has yet to respond.
Lenard, meanwhile, is now presiding over the third trial, which itself is an outrage after two juries have already chosen not to convict. The prosecution apparently will keep going until it manages to get its way.
And the juries were surely influenced by McMahon's work, or at least the bits and pieces of it the attorneys were able to get past the judge.
So even though his work went unpaid, it wasn't in vain, and it hasn't been forgotten. In fact, Levin's defense in the Liberty City Seven case has been celebrated by colleagues. In June, he's scheduled to give a panel discussion on the Liberty City case at the annual conference of the National Association of Legal Investigators. Accompanying him will be McMahon.Levin, along with other Liberty City lawyers, also recently won the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' Rodney Thaxton "Against All Odds" Award, which is given to the attorney who "epitomizes the courage to stand apart (and often alone) as liberty's last champion."
After the award was announced February 22, Levin sent off an email to McMahon: "You own a piece of this. Thanks."