Posted by Diego Henao.
During vior dire, potential expert witnesses’ credibility and expertise is assessed to arrive at a decision if they are properly qualified to give their opinion in court. In the State of Utah, Judge Paul Parker has disqualified Gil Miller, a forensic accountant, from taking the stand as an expert witness for the prosecution team in the criminal trial against father and son, Wendell and Allen Jacobson, and their company Management Solutions Inc. This decision came about after the Jacobson’s attorney’s presented their argument that Gil Miller had a conflict of interest due to his previous professional involvement with the Jacobson’s and their legal team.
Miller participated in the defense of the Jacobson’s and their company in the December 2011 trial in which the SEC sued them for allegedly running a Ponzi scheme involving the purchasing and selling of apartment buildings. Miller’s role in this case consisted of being the accountant for the Jacobson’s attorneys, and because of this, he participated in the analysis of private information, and therefore, he should not be allowed to participate as an expert witness for the prosecution in the current trial. This was the argument that the Jacobson’s legal team brought to the attention of Judge Parker; they also mentioned how Miller was exposed to private documents, legal theories, and information and this should discredit his qualification, since he would now be on the opposing side helping the prosecution against the Jacobsons. The lawyer for Allen Jacobson, Amanda Mendenhall, argued that “ (Attorneys) must be able to rely on the confidentiality of the consultants they hire to assist in providing legal services to their clients. Without these protections it is scary to think an expert could be privy to critical defense strategy and then turn around and deliver the information to a prosecuting agency” (Harvey). The Jacobson’s attorneys also stated how during that SEC trial, Miller had provided their legal team with false information in regards to the work he had conducted.
Aside from wanting Miller to not participate in the case, the defense attorneys also argued that since Miller had already been in contact with the prosecutors, and therefore, had offered some sort of insight, he had “tainted” the case, and therefore, they demanded that the prosecution team be removed and replaced from this case. If Judge Parker would agree to this second demand, then the prosecution would be able to appeal this decision. The judge’s decision to disqualify Miller as an expert witness remained and concluded with the fact that he could not participate as an expert, but that he could still be a witness in regards to the facts of the case. This trial, which accuses the Jacobson’s of 16 felony fraud involved counts of failing to inform investors about how their investments were being managed is still yet to be scheduled.
Diego is a graduate accounting student at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2018.
Harvey, Tom. “Judge Says Prominent Forensic Accountant Can’t Be Expert Witness in Fraud Case Because of Conflict.” The Salt Lake Tribune. N.p., 19 Sept. 2017. Web.