(Updates with excerpt from ruling in fourth paragraph.)
Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- The conviction of Joseph Collins, Refco Inc.’s former outside lawyer, was reversed by an appeals court that found the trial judge improperly instructed a juror outside the presence of his lawyers.
Collins, convicted in 2009 of aiding Refco’s former chief executive officer Phillip Bennett and other executives defraud investors of $2.4 billion, is entitled to a new trial, a three- judge panel of the New York-based federal appeals court said in a ruling today.
Collins was convicted of five of 14 criminal counts against him, including two counts of wire fraud, two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy. Jurors were unable to reach a verdict on the other nine counts. During deliberations in the case, jurors told the judge that there had been threats of violence in the jury room, with one juror threatening to cut off the finger of another one.
“We cannot say with fair assurance that the judgment was not substantially swayed by the district court’s errors in this case,” U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin wrote in an opinion today.
Collins, a former corporate lawyer with the Chicago firm Mayer Brown LLP, was accused of helping Refco’s management conceal transactions from lenders and investors that hid losses incurred by the New York-based firm. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
The case is U.S. v. Collins, 07-cr-1170, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
--With assistance from David Glovin in New York. Editors: Andrew Dunn, Glenn Holdcraft
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