Amid his blistering criticism of the Justice Department’s recent conduct in the Michael Flynn case, an ex-judge appointed by the court also tore into Flynn’s tactics in the proceedings.
John Gleeson, who was appointed by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan as a friend of the court, said Flynn had engaged in “self-serving gamesmanship” that challenged the “integrity of the judicial system.”
Flynn, President Trump’s former National Security Advisor, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI, and twice affirmed that guilty plea in court. He has now asked to withdraw that plea, while the Justice Department last month reversed its position in the case and asked for its dismissal.
While tasking Gleeson with opposing the DOJ dismissal request, Sullivan also asked for briefing on whether the court should move forward with contempt proceedings on the allegation that Flynn committed perjury.
Gleeson argued that Flynn did commit perjury and does deserve punishment. But instead of holding him in contempt, Gleeson recommended to Sullivan that he wrap that punishment into the ultimate sentence he hands down for Flynn’s false statements.
Gleeson ripped Flynn for the reason he is now giving for why he should be allowed to withdraw his plea.
“As Flynn admits, he elected to plead guilty before the Court and then reaffirmed his guilt in a separate court proceeding—testifying under oath in court not once, but twice that he had lied to the FBI, and that his plea was voluntary and not the product of threats of any kind—when he felt it was in his interest to do so because he expected he ‘would be sentenced to probation,” Gleeson recounted. “It was only after he was taken ‘completely by surprise’ by the Court’s warning that he might face more serious consequences that Flynn.”
Gleeson called Flynn’s approach a “brazen gamesmanship challenging the integrity of the judicial system.”
“A defendant cannot be permitted to abuse this solemn and careful process by opportunistically entering a plea, gauging the reaction of the court, and then, if dissatisfied with that reaction, falsely claiming that the initial plea was a lie—all in an attempt to require further court proceedings or escape a conviction,” Gleeson argued.
He said the conduct “derailed” the proceedings and “obstructed the Court in the performance of its duty.”
“Such self-serving gamesmanship obstructs the administration of justice by vitiating the plea process and wasting courts’ and prosecutors’ time and resources,” Gleeson said. “The Court has its own compelling interest, independent of the Executive branch, in ensuring that parties do not abuse and manipulate its essential functions.”
Gleeson tweaked Flynn for the excuses Flynn is now giving for reversing his posture in the case.
“While he describes himself now as a helpless ‘fish-out-of water,’ as a former National Security Advisor and three-star general advised by experienced and sophisticated counsel, he ranks among the savviest of criminal defendants to come before any court,” Gleeson said.
He noted that Sullivan gave Flynn a second opportunity to affirm his plea, after Flynn had previously entered it in court in front of a different federal judge. At the time, Sullivan also asked Flynn to affirm he did not want to seek the advice of a separate counsel before recommitting to his guilty pleas. (Six months after that proceeding, Flynn fired his attorneys — who he is now accusing of having a conflict of interest — and hired a legal team that took the more hostile approach to the case.)
Gleeson argued that the “the law does not permit a defendant to disavow his guilty plea as a lie merely because he now fears he misjudged his possible sentence.”
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