A jury dramatically shaved the government’s stock option batting average today after it acquitted former McAfee general counsel Kent Roberts of mail fraud charges. Our story on Cal Law was heavily informed by an interview with juror William West, a retired contract manager from Oakland. West, smoking cigarettes outside the federal building, was kind enough to donate another solid hour of his time (this, mind you, after a three-week trial) so that we— and you! — could peer into the jury room.
West holds a J.D., it’s worth noting. Negotiating contracts for the Port of Oakland, he didn’t like not knowing the law when he faced lawyers across the table. So he attended Golden Gate University School of Law (’81), got his degree, but never went into practice.
A few points that didn’t make it into our other story: One defense point that resonated with the jury concerned Terry Davis, McAfee’s former controller who allegedly possessed the authority to change the date on Roberts’ grant. Cooley partner Stephen Neal had argued that Roberts would not have turned Davis in to the SEC in a subsequent internal investigation had they been in cahoots on the 2000 option grant. West agreed, calling it a “common sense” conclusion.
“If there had been a conspiracy at the beginning between the two to change options, once Davis realized two years later he was going down, he would have taken Roberts down with him,” West said.
The government tried to undercut the argument that Davis was authorized to make the date change by presenting evidence that such large grants routinely went to the board for approval. But the jury agreed with the defense, West said, because the company’s board resolutions handed over that authority, which trumps any routine practice that may have been followed.
The jury was highly professional in going about its work, West said. Even though they disagreed profoundly about certain aspects of the case — for example, the jury couldn’t make up its mind about the government’s honest services theory, and deadlocked on a false books and records charge — the back and forth never got personal, West said. “It was the type of jury which could be an example as to how jurors ought to work,” he said. “There were good people there.”
— Dan Levine