To properly and correctly report on the details of complex financial crime cases, especially money laundering, the journalists who write those articles should, with rare exception, be attorneys. We are seeing, time and time again, errors and mistakes when the cases are reported by journalists whose educational backgrounds generally do not go beyond the humanities. Rarely will you find a practising journalist who has even taken criminal law cases at the undergraduate level, as most of them concentrate on a programme designed to train them in the preparation of all types of stories. I note with approval that the Times of Malta has an attorney-journalist, but they are rare in the industry.
I do not make this claim because of my own qualifications; readers, especially professionals who might be able to glean something of use regarding their representation of their own clients, deserve accuracy, please. If there is something that occurred in a case of great public interest, report it accurately.
Look at the current issue of Malta Today, which contains an important story entitled "Pilatus Money Laundering: Arrest Warrants not yet Served to Bosses," written by Matthew Vella. In that article, Mr. Vella that Pilatus Bank owner/CEO/Chairman ALI SADR HASHEMI NEJAD was "acquitted" of sanctions busting charges. He further stated "charges were dropped," which leads readers to conclude, erroneously, that Sadr was NOT convicted by a jury of his crime, which occurred. It was only due to reputed Prosecutorial Misconduct (failing to timely deliver evidence to defence counsel, a Brady violation) that the verdict was set aside and the case Nolle Prosequi, which means the Government decided not to go forward with its case. He only mentions the truth, the conviction, in a sideboards on Page 4, but on Page 1 he asserts an acquittal, which did not occur.
Knowledge of specific criminal law statutes, which is as far as most journalists go when examining a complex criminal case, fails to consider the subject of Criminal Procedure. It is the rules of procedure which are often the reason a court may enter a specific ruling, regarding Substantive Law. and the failure of non-attorney journalists to grasp procedural issues often result in errors in reporting. Many journalists use the term "innocent" when reporting on Sad'r case; in truth and in fact, he was anything but that. A jury of his peers found him guilty; that result was reversed only because the trial judge, already upset because the aggressive prosecutors at SDNY had allegedly violated Brady, either the spirit or the letter of that decision, had learnt of late-delivered Discovery.
This is just one of many errors I typically find in articles discussing Federal cases, whether criminal or civil, because the writer did not understand the importance of a procedural point. In US vs. Bruce Bagley, all the reporters noted that Professor Bagley received a mere six month sentence for money laundering, apparently due to his advanced age and poor health. What the Judgment and Notice of Commitment (the sentence) actually stated was conviction on two counts, with six month sentences, to be served concurrently, meaning simultaneously.
He also was not given any post-sentence Supervised Release, which is extremely rare. Supervised Release keep tabs on defendants after they have served their sentences. A lawyer-journalist would have pointed out the significance of these details. Most reporters ignored them altogether, as well as Bagley's relationship with his client, Alex Saab Moran, who is awaiting trial in Miami on money laundering charges.
I note with approval that there are some media that do employ seasoned journalists who have acquired the necessary tools; the Miami Herald's Jay Weaver, with over 20 years of experience is the exception; his excellence in reporting Federal Court cases is based upon that experience. Most are young reporters short on knowledge of the criminal justice system they are covering. That way, the media doesn't have to pay them huge salaries.
Let's have more lawyers, especially those with criminal defence experience, make a career change, ald lateral over to reporting on a field which they are intimately familiar with; complex criminal cases, whether they be local, Federal or appellate. Nobody else is better qualified to tell those stories.