Today's Reading

"When they told you that you and Senator Baldesteri were the target of a criminal investigation for tax evasion and fund-raising fraud and money laundering, did you cry?"

"I was upset, I think."

"You think? That was nine months ago, wasn't it? You remember crying when the Senator's husband was blown up years ago by an ISIS suicide bomber in Manhattan, but you don't remember crying when seven FBI agents arrived at your home at six in the morning and told you that they and the Justice Department believe you concealed twenty-six million dollars in payments and never reported that to the IRS or to the Federal Election Commission? And you can't today remember how you reacted to that, is that right?"

"I told them they were wrong. It was a mistake. They had the wrong person. Their views and impressions were wrong."

"When you said all that, sir, you were lying to federal agents, isn't that right?"

"I was."

"And you are a lawyer, aren't you?"

"I was then."

"And you know that lying to federal agents, even when you're not under oath, is a crime, correct?"

"I wasn't thinking about that. I was thinking about how best to protect Senator Baldesteri. She had just started serious meetings to talk about running for President."

Hughes was a large man, a one-time college football player. He looked like a solid Midwesterner, the kind of man who might inspire confidence in places like Oklahoma City, Minneapolis, and the myriad other cities in which Raquel over her three-decade career had tried cases. But this trial was in Manhattan, and most of the carefully selected members of the jury, five black men, four black women, three Jews who were New York natives, two WASPs from the Upper East Side, a Chinese grocery store-owner, a Muslim college professor, and a beautiful Latina from the Bronx, were not likely to have the same warm, trusting reaction to this blond man that jurors in a city like Indianapolis might have.

Raquel, who had often wondered why the shrewd, Louisiana-born and Wellesley-educated Angelina Baldesteri had ever brought a man like Hughes into her innermost circle, wanted to transform this bland Midwesterner into a snake oil salesman, a huckster, a modern-day Elmer Gantry.

"How much time did you spend, sir, wanting to protect the Senator after the FBI came calling on you?"

"I don't remember."

"Was it as long as a day?"

"I'm not sure. It made me uncomfortable to lie."

"Lying makes you uncomfortable, Mr. Hughes? Is that what you are telling us?"

"It is."

To Raquel's left and next to the jury box was an easel with large sheets of white paper, a relic of old elementary school classrooms.

"You told Mr. Decker on direct examination that you signed a cooperation agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office three days after the FBI first visited you, isn't that right?"

Hunter Decker, now seated motionless at the prosecution table, was the lead Government attorney.

"That's right," Hughes said.

"And in that cooperation agreement you promised to tell the Government everything you now say you knew about the process of the funding for the Senator's campaign, correct?"

"Yes."

As Raquel saw, Hughes gave that confidential, you-can-trust-me glance at the jurors. Covertly glancing at the two rows of people in the jury box, she was pleased to see that, unlike at the outset of his testimony, some of the jurors deliberately did not return Hughes' trust-me glance.

"And when you signed that agreement with the prosecutors to cooperate against the Senator you also agreed to tell them about every single crime you ever committed?"

"I did."
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