Federal agents also targeted PGA winner Phil Mickelson; DOJ officials never held to account for wrongdoing, coverup.
Attorneys for William T. “Billy” Walters continue to press a federal court to punish government agents for illegally leaking grand jury information involving trading of a food-company stock by Walters and professional golfer Phil Mickelson, winner of 2021’s PGA Championship.
In court papers filed Thursday, Walters asked the court to take action against five federal law enforcement officials, including former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, for failing to stop, investigate or remedy the illegal leaking of information by a former FBI agent in 2014 and 2015. The Department of Justice has asked the court to dismiss the case, which was filed in October.
Walters is not challenging his 2017 conviction on insider-trading charges, his attorneys noted. He served more than half of his five-year prison sentence before being granted clemency in January. Walters is asking the court to rule that key federal officials violated his constitutional rights through a “flagrant abuse of the grand jury process” by illegally leaking secret grand jury information to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. According to the court filing, former FBI agent David Chaves, his supervisor George Venizelos and prosecutors Richard Zabel, Telemachus Kasulis and Daniel Goldman, who worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York at the time, are accused of the leaks and their coverup.
Today’s court filing provides new details about the federal investigation and the leaks regarding Walters, financier Carl Icahn, former Dean Foods Chairman Tom Davis and Mickelson. Federal agents confronted Mickelson at a golf tournament in Ohio in May 2014. Mickelson has denied any wrongdoing. One day later, The Wall Street Journal reported secret details of the investigation.
Federal authorities never charged Mickelson with a crime, but the golfer settled the case by forfeiting his profits of approximately $1 million to the government. In a separate civil case, Mickelson neither admitted nor denied any wrongdoing. Prosecutors cited Mickelson’s trading as evidence against Walters in the criminal trial. Mickelson refused to testify at the trial.
In the filing, attorney Pierce O’Donnell wrote that federal agents “cannot be held to be immune from suit for their failure to investigate or otherwise remedy the ongoing leaking by Defendant Chaves.”
“Otherwise, no citizen is safe from federal prosecutors and senior law enforcement management creating a culture of official criminality by turning a blind eye and willfully ignoring their duties to supervise and discipline wayward FBI agents for violating fundamental constitutional rights.”
Walters’ attorneys expressed continued dismay at the fact that, despite a federal judge’s demand that the illegal leaks and coverup be investigated and the results shared with the court, nothing has happened. The legal response provides additional details about the torrent of leaks and the U.S. Attorney’s knowledge of those leaks. In October 2016, Walters’ team noted, the U.S. Attorney’s Office “adamantly denied what it knew to be true for years: one or more Government agents were the source of the leaks.”
U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Castel ordered the government to investigate the leaks for possible prosecution for criminal contempt and/or obstruction of justice. Three agencies were charged with investigating the matter yet, the filing notes, “Walters waited patiently for the results of this court-ordered investigation to redress the constitutional wrongs against him, but no redress ever came… In short, the cover-up never ended.”