I just got back from watching the opening arguments in the Safavian trial. There were some entertaining moments -- like when the judge forgot to swear in the jury, or when he blew up at a guy whose cell phone rang when court was in session. But in general, the lesson learned was this: the only thing more boring than golf is a trial about golf.
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Paul's breakdown yesterday was essentially right: the prosecution argued that the case is about "lying, concealment and misleading." The defense countered that Safavian never lied and never misled. They'll bat that back and forth for a while, I suspect -- much as Paul predicted. Although, it looks like the defense has at least one strategy that could spell danger for prosecutors not just in this trial but others in the Abramoff scandal roll-up.
At the heart of the case is Safavian's motive for allegedly lying to investigators and obstructing probes. That motive, prosecutors seem to believe, is his overwhelming love of golf.
First, they say Safavian lied in order to go on that infamous golf trip to St. Andrews, Scotland with Abramoff, associates and lawmakers. Second, they say he loves golf so much that he was susceptible to Abramoff's seductions: "dangling" the prospect of working as a lobbyist at Jack's firm, "where [Safavian] could make a great deal of money, and play a great deal of golf," prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg explained.
So: Did Safavian help Abramoff with GSA property deals and lie about it, presumably so that he could a) play golf in Scotland while at the GSA, and b) play golf anywhere he pleased after landing a cushy job with Abramoff?
I don't know. I don't know how much he loves golf. But it became clear that a number of others in the courtroom -- myself included -- did not love golf at all.