By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on April 5, 2023
An Editorial Opinion
After I published an article on April 4, 2023, titled, “Trump Will Likely Lose New York Criminal Case,” I received several private calls from readers aligned with Donald Trump who asked whether his case can be salvaged. The answer is, “Yes,” but not by the legal team that is representing him now.
For the record, this article is written and published solely for the purpose of public education.
My Professional Background Gives Me Special Insight into Trump’s Criminal Case
By way of a professional background, I have been in the “gladiator pit” on complex criminal cases more than any lawyer I know. I am NOT a TV talking-head or a lawyer who has not tried and won big cases. My insight is based upon personal experiences like the ones listed below:
1. I was the lead attorney for the legal team that holds the record in American jurisprudence for winning the most felony counts (85) in a single case (U.S. v. Richard Scrushy). No white-collar criminal defendant before or since Richard Scrushy, who was HealthSouth Corp.'s former CEO, has defeated 85 felony charges in an individual case.
2. I have kept a Chief U.S. District Judge on the federal bench (U.W. Clemon in Birmingham, Alabama) and taken a Chief U.S. District Judge off the bench (Mark E. Fuller in Montgomery, Alabama).
3. I saved Birmingham, Alabama mayor Richard Arrington, Jr. from prosecution by federal law enforcement officials (1988-1992).
4. My exclusive investigative reports forced the resignation of Alabama governor Robert Bentley in 2017.
5. In 1975, I uncovered a police scandal that resulted in the resignations of Montgomery, Alabama’s mayor and police commissioner, the indictment of three police officers, and the firing or resignation of eight others. This scandal was headlined in the April 3, 1977, edition of the Washington Post as "Alabama’s 'Watergate'."
6. On November 26, 1976, I won a full and unconditional pardon from the state of Alabama for Clarence Norris, the last known surviving “Scottsboro Boy." The nine Scottsboro Boys were falsely accused in 1931 of raping two white girls on a train running through Paint Rock, Alabama. All were arrested, tried, convicted of rape, and sentenced to death on multiple occasions. The U.S. Supreme Court saved the Scottsboro Boys on three occasions within hours of their scheduled execution. Clarence Norris’s pardon was based upon a finding of “innocence” of the criminal charge of rape, as proclaimed by the Alabama Pardons and Parole Board. This was the first pardon ever granted by the state of Alabama to a person who was originally sentenced to death and who was later declared innocent of the charges for which he was convicted.
7. I hold the record in American jurisprudence for the longest winning streak of jury trials in complex criminal and civil cases – 155 straight victories.
How Trump Can Win His Case
Donald Trump is facing 34 felony counts of FALSIFYING BUSINESS RECORDS IN THE FIRST DEGREE, in violation of Penal Law §175.10. He has entered a plea of NOT GUILTY.
At this juncture, Trump is presumed to be INNOCENT of all 34 felony charges.
From Trump’s standpoint, this is a case where losing is NOT an acceptable option. For all practical purposes, Trump is "down" behind “enemy lines.” The efforts to win Trump's unprecedented criminal case is akin to a rescue mission by a team of Navy Seals that must reach him, retrieve him, and free him.
Right now, Donald Trump is represented by the WRONG kind of lawyers who are executing the WRONG kind of defensive strategy in the WRONG way in a venue where Trump is NOT popular.
They must be replaced with a specially trained rescue team. Trump must hire a seasoned and skilled field commander who specializes in rescue missions in hostile territory, and he/she must pick his/her own team members. Each member of Trump's legal team must have unique skills and is selected for a special purpose.
The prosecution team only needs to win on ONE criminal count, while Trump must win all THIRTY-FOUR counts. It is critically important that the team members know, understand, and perfectly execute its rescue mission. The team must move with a speed that mesmerizes the prosecution team. They also must be able to deplore laser litigation techniques as a routine course of action.
It is important to note that the trial judge and prosecution team are both paid by New York State tax dollars. This presents a structural conflict of interest that is present in every criminal case and cannot be avoided. Therefore, the defense team must develop and execute legal strategies that neutralize this conflict of interest long enough to free Trump.
Trump’s existing legal team has already blown legal strategies, techniques, and logistical maneuvers that have reduced his chances of winning by 50%. These blunders have the operative effect of increasing the workload of the rescue team and leaving them NO margin for error.
Trump’s rescue team must also have incredible focus, exceptional trial skills in complex legal cases, a very concise and readily understandably defensive plan, and perfect execution of about 3,000 discrete legal moves in sequential order.
The same commander must devise and flawlessly execute a game plan for preventing Trump’s state court indictment in Georgia and his federal court indictment in Washington. In military jargon, it does no good to rescue Trump in New York ONLY to have him ambushed in Atlanta and Washington. The field commander must engage the prosecutors in Georgia and Washington with fierce pre-indictment fighting, all under the commander's supervision and direction.
The legal team in Georgia must skillfully neutralize District Attorney Fani Willis, while the team in Washington must crush Special Counsel Jack Smith. The ability to issue a knockout blow to Jack Smith has been available to Trump’s lawyers since November 25, 2022, but they have NOT used it.
The look on Donald Trump’s face at his arraignment tells you he has no confidence in his legal team. I don’t either. What is their win-loss record in the gladiator pit? In answering this question, a guilty plea does not count as a win. Only a knockout counts as a win.
I saw this same look on Richard Scrushy’s face before he was rescued in 2005. I saw it on Richard Arrington, Jr.’s face before his rescue in 1992. I saw it on U.W. Clemon’s face before his rescue in 1996. I saw it on Clarence Norris’s face before his rescue in 1976.
Whether Donald Trump is rescued depends solely upon him and the defense attorneys he chooses. Remember, losing just one count in Trump's criminal case is NOT an acceptable option.