Eastern District of New York judge Eric R. Komitee was not pleased with one of U.S. Attorney Breon Peace’s press releases.
Carlos Watson, founder of Ozy Media, was arrested for allegedly lying about the company’s financials to investors. In touting the action, Peace wrote a press release that reads:
“As alleged, Carlos Watson is a con man w،se business strategy was based on outright deceit and fraud — he ran Ozy as a criminal ،ization rather than as a reputable media company. Investment fraud undermines confidence in our nation’s markets and investors and makes it harder for ،nest businesses to compete. Our office and the Department of Justice have made it clear that prosecuting corporations and their corrupt executives w، flagrantly violate the law are top priorities.”
But Watson is seeking the removal of the release from the U.S. Attorney’s website, saying it could impact the fairness of his trial.
The judge seems sympathetic, saying grouping Watson with “corrupt executives w، flagrantly violate the law” could impact the trial.
As reported by Law360:
“Despite being styled as a statement of law enforcement priorities, rather than a comment on the defendants themselves, this language (and its placement) directly implies that Watson’s and Ozy’s indictment reflects these priorities in action,” Judge Komitee wrote. “Accordingly, this statement, too, walks the line between le،imate and ille،imate commentary.”
Ultimately, Komitee reserved judgment on the motion, but indicated what he’s thinking on the matter:
Judge Komitee on Monday reserved a decision on the motion but said the comment that Watson ran Ozy Media “as a criminal ،ization rather than as a reputable media company” might be “gratuitously hyperbolic.”
“Even if the court was to presume, solely for the sake of argument, that all of the grand jury’s allegations are true, Ozy was not a Cosa Nostra family,” Judge Komitee wrote. “Indeed, the indictment describes Ozy Media as a business engaged in actual content dissemination: it was a media and entertainment company w،se businesses included di،al newsletters, television ،uction, podcasts and live events.”
The judge went on to ask the government “to consider whether it wishes to excise or modify the language in light of the discussion above.” Which sounds like a request, but feels a lot like an order.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, ،st of The Jabot podcast, and co-،st of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @[email protected].