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Diana L. Courson

Eighteen Years After Marc Rich Indictment, Morris "Sandy" Weinberg Jr. Finds Himself in the Eye of the Storm Over Clinton Pardon

June 5, 2001

Almost two decades ago, Zuckerman Spaeder partner Morris "Sandy" Weinberg Jr. was a young federal prosecutor. Not long after starting his job in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan, Mr. Weinberg got a call from a prosecutor friend in Washington who had some information about an alleged scam being perpetrated by an international oil trader named Marc Rich. The next day, Mr. Weinberg conducted jailhouse interviews with two Texas oilmen who laid out the basic facts of what became one of the largest tax evasion prosecutions in history.

With Mr. Weinberg leading the team of prosecutors and agents investigating the case, two companies controlled by Marc Rich ultimately pled guilty to criminal tax charges and paid approximately $200 million in back taxes, penalties, and fines. Mr. Rich and his business partner, Pincus Green, were indicted individually in 1983 and charged with 65 counts of tax evasion and racketeering, but they fled the country before they could be tried. In the ensuing years, Mr. Rich has lived lavishly in Switzerland as a multi-millionaire international fugitive, and, despite being listed on the FBI's Ten-Most-Wanted fugitive list, has managed to evade the United States' efforts to apprehend him for almost two decades.

Of course, Marc Rich no longer faces criminal charges, having received one of the most controversial and highly publicized presidential pardons ever granted. The pardon of Marc Rich has been the subject of an ongoing public debate about the operation of the pardon process, a congressional inquiry into President Clinton's pardons, and also the subject of a new criminal inquiry being conducted in the Southern District of New York.

Not surprisingly, as the lead prosecutor in the Rich case, Mr. Weinberg has played an integral role in the public and political discourse surrounding the pardon. No one knows the prosecution's case against Rich better than Mr. Weinberg does, even twenty years after developing it. On February 8, 2001, Mr. Weinberg testified about the merits of the Rich prosecution before a congressional committee looking into the facts surrounding the pardon. In addition, Mr. Weinberg has appeared on numerous television news programs, including two appearances on Larry King Live and appearances on MSNBC's Hardball; Fox's popular programs The O'Reilly Factor and The Edge; and PBS's News Hour with Jim Lehrer.

Mr. Weinberg has also been interviewed extensively by the print media and quoted in lead stories appearing in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Recently, the Post invited Mr. Weinberg to author an extensive op-ed piece directly responding to former President Clinton's New York Times editorial offering a defense of the Clinton pardon. Mr. Weinberg's compelling explanation of the Rich indictment and condemnation of the pardon appeared in the February 25, 2001 Washington Post. More recently, Mr. Weinberg assessed the merits (and demerits) of the pardon in a bylined piece appearing in the New York Daily News.

Today, Mr. Weinberg continues to practice criminal law, defending large and high-profile white collar and civil cases from Zuckerman Spaeder's Tampa office.

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