THE JAMES ROSEMOND TRIAL
November 6, 2017
By: DJ Sikorski
As a citizen of the United States of America, the federal criminal justice system is a foreign land to the majority of people.
Only those who work inside it or those facing criminal charges get to see the systems, its corruption, and at times, pompous proceedings that take place inside federal court buildings up close.
In New York City, there are two cathedrals of justice:
They are commonly called the Southern District, which is located in downtown New York City in a cavern of buildings as imposing as Roman coliseums.
The Eastern District is located in downtown Brooklyn, an area being gentrified as we speak by European and hipster money.
The “Districts,” is where legal genius is practiced on both sides of the aisle, and it also is where careers are made, lives are ruined, and headlines are grabbed in the New York daily papers or national news. Disciples of the Eastern and Southern
Districts know it is where U. S. Attorneys go to make their bones.
Lawyers, such as Rudolph Giuliani, Michael Chertoff, Preet Bahara, Todd Kaminsky, James Comey, and Mob bosses: John Gotti, Carmine Persico, and celebrities like Martha Stewart have fought battles inside these hallowed courtrooms.
On Monday, November 6, I traveled to the Southern District to observe the murder trial of James Rosemond, also known as Hip-Hop Impresario, Jimmy Henchman.
The first trial ended in a hung jury, and the second trial resulted in a conviction that was very quickly thrown out on appeal.
In a prior proceeding years ago, Rosemond was charged and ultimately convicted under the federal Drug Kingpin Act. He is currently serving four life sentences under that charge and case.
I have covered at length in print and also as a documentary film titled "Unjust Justice," the drug case.
Now, I will be addressing the issues inside this murder trial from the front row. Over the course of the trial, I will try to view the case with fresh eyes.
Similar to how a jury will now look at Rosemond, the evidence, and the two stories presented in front of them.
I will make no assumptions about his guilt or innocence until the end.
I will, however, have my focus on the system of justice: What does justice means in 2017, and is this federal criminal trial fair and just?
I stood in line at 500 Pearl Street on Monday at nine in the morning. . . the first stop was an extensive, security checkpoint.
It was similar to an airport with metal detectors and imposing federal security. You are required to check all electronic devices via a cloakroom.
From there, I took an elevator to a designated courtroom, in this case, 21B, the domain of Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan.
This white-haired, gruff, yet eloquent, elder statesman runs his courtroom with precision and some bad, tonal humor for anyone willing to listen.
The first day in any federal trial is jury selection.
Prior to that, there was a brief hearing and a request by Jimmy’s lawyer, David Touger.
Twenty-four hours prior to the trial starting, the United States Attorney-led by Samuel Enser, Drew Skinner, and Elizabeth Hanft dropped four-thousand pages of Facebook posts as discovery on the defense.
Touger asked Judge Kaplan if the government could provide Jimmy and the defense with a paralegal to go through the discovery.
Kaplan, with no sympathy or compassion, stated that if Jimmy could afford two lawyers, he could also afford to pay another paralegal to go through this new evidence.
The problem in addressing that issue is Jimmy has been in jail for at least eight years. Where could he find additional money that wouldn’t be an immense strain on his family or friends?
It is obvious, that the government didn’t want him to have a fair, playing field.
I asked the defense if the four-thousand pages of Facebook posts were actual evidence or a sheer game of brinkmanship by the United States Attorney.
The posts, I later found out, belonged to Jason Williams, who has been in jail for more than five years.
He had been previously charged with conspiracy to commit murder in this very case.
In the first two trials, Williams did not testify for the government; however, he was promised that he would be home by Christmas.
Now, Williams will be testifying against Jimmy.
One has to beg the question, how does someone inside a federal jail have close to four thousand pages of Facebook posts, and secondarily, what does it have to do with this story?
When you spend any time with criminal defense attorneys or investigators, whose job it is to fight for the defendants, you quickly learn that the system is rigged in favor of the government to convict the clients.
You have to suspend belief that almost ninety percent of the cases brought by the prosecutors are successful.
One would think that these young, pit bull attorneys for the government are that good, but upon any further research and off the record conversations, I realized that isn’t the case.
The corridors of justice are just plain unjust.
And to further their success rate, they will pull any trick out of a book, as they are not held to any level of ethical or moral expectations.
In observing the government’s team against Rosemond, they remind me of robots without passion, soul, or warmth towards any jury.
They have all of the tools that far outweigh the defendants’ right to have fair trials.
In the case of Rosemond, the government has the luxury of arguing this case for a third time. In essence, they can hone their delivery and theatrics.
They can train witnesses to give an even better performance to a jury, who has no prior knowledge that this same charge has played out two times prior with the end result not in their favor.
Why would a government spend millions of dollars and thousands of manpower hours to convict a man, who currently is in a federal prison four times longer than his actual expiration?
Is it revenge? Is it fear? Is it a stat to perpetuate that ninety-percent conviction rate? Or is something bigger playing out?
Is the government worried that Rosemond might beat the case? It is flimsy, at best, and perhaps, it could ultimately fall apart.
The federal jury selection exercise is much different than the selection for state courts, or any legal procedurals on CBS.
It is a quick procedure; there are not any fancy, jury experts, and to be honest, it really comes down to luck and gut instincts as they select the jurors.
Forty-two, prospective jurors show up; twelve of which, with a few alternates, will decide
Jimmy’s fate. Judge Kaplan told everyone that the entire process would be done by lunchtime. It is hard to believe that in this rush to judgment in a two-hour span, a jury will be selected that will inevitably decide a man’s fate.
Is that just? Shouldn’t there be some form of extensive questioning to determine their insights. I wondered how a judge could expedite the process?
If the defendant is facing life in jail, who would you want as a juror?
Young males? Stay-at-home Moms? The working class plumber from the Bronx?
One defense attorney told me that he never wants immigrants because they came to the United States and now hold its values in a higher esteem than the working class stiff.
As a seasoned, Hip-Hop executive, and entrepreneur, Rosemond is an African-American in a system that was built to enslave, to imprison unjustly, and incarcerate at an alarming rate.
As I cover this case and many others, I have come to realize that the Southern and Eastern Districts are corrupt wheels of justice that cloak themselves in purity and truth.
These districts have not been established to play fair; they are rigged in the favor of money and power.
This money and power comes in the form of a pay-to-play scheme, where defense attorneys are enriched to the tune of millions of dollars.
United States Attorneys work long hours for that cushy job at a white-shoe law firm or a seat at the coveted wheels of political power and prestige.
As the government presented their first few witnesses, court ended at 4: 30 PM.