Credit to Juliet Macur, New York Times, April 19, 2018 (Substantive article).
In our prior blog, we quoted Armstrong’s lawyer, Elliot Peters:
“We feel confident about our positions going into trial, as we have always felt confident about defeating this wrongheaded case.”
And this was my comment:
Armstrong's lawyers suggest that a fraud of this magnitude should be excused because the Post Office received such great alleged promotional value. What a joke. Sometimes, a veiled apology just isn't enough. Armstrong stole the "dreams" of many others, dreams they can never get back, and he singlehandedly trashed an entire sport. What's that worth? What goes around, comes around.
The comment above wasn’t Mr. Peters’ first public comment about the alleged lack of merit to the government’s case. He belittled the case every chance he got as he belittled Floyd Landis, the whistleblower.
I always love it when lawyers belittle and bemoan their adversary’s case and then ultimately pay millions of dollars for the case they said was worth nothing. We’ve had that occur numerous times over the years. On one occasion, where the other side told us our case was worthless, they paid $13 million. It’s unfortunate they cannot recognize merit and exposure because their egos get in the way. But, is that really providing a service to the client? Even to a Lance Armstrong?
Related to the case Mr. Peters thought had no merit, Lance Armstrong agreed on Thursday to pay $5 million to settle claims that he defrauded the federal government by using performance-enhancing drugs when the United States Postal Service sponsored his cycling team. Armstrong will also pay $1.65 million to cover the legal costs of the whistleblower, Floyd Landis.
This was not an easy case for the government by any stretch of the imagination because it would be difficult to prove that the Postal Service suffered financial damages. It was not a matter of whether Armstrong doped, lied, and cheated, but rather whether the Postal Service suffered financial harm. So, if you’re so confident, take the case to trial and prove the lack of damages.
The Department of Justice public release is below:
The settlement ended years of legal wrangling between Armstrong and the government over whether the Postal Service had actually sustained harm because of Armstrong’s doping.
After years of vehement, nasty denials, and going out of his way to financially and personally harm anyone who called him out, Armstrong admitted in 2013 that he had doped while winning a record seven Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005. He wore a Postal Service jersey during the first six of those victories, but he was stripped of all his Tour titles in 2012 after an investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency determined that he and many of his teammates had been doping, including Landis, who admitted to it long before Armstrong and who did not attempt to besmirch and defame the reputations of others. Armstrong called Landis a fraud, as he similarly referred to anyone else who called him out.
Mr. Peters still can’t keep quiet:
“We’ve had exactly the same view of this case forever, which was that it was a bogus case because the Postal Service was never harmed,” Elliot Peters, Armstrong’s lead lawyer, said in a telephone interview.
He added that the Postal Service had boasted that sponsoring Armstrong’s cycling team for $32.3 million was a marketing boon. That was the value of the second deal between the Postal Service and the team. That contract, unlike its predecessor, contained an anti-doping clause.
If you are such a great trial lawyer and your client is innocent and the case against your client is “bogus,” then take your case to trial and prove it.
If he had lost in court, Armstrong faced the possibility of paying treble damages under the terms of the False Claims Act, which is aimed at recovering government money obtained by fraud. But, you can’t treble zero if you believe Mr. Peters.
The settlement averted a trial scheduled to begin with jury selection in two weeks in Federal District Court in Washington.
“I am particularly glad to have made peace with the Postal Service,” Armstrong said in a statement issued by Peters’ law firm. “While I believe that their lawsuit against me was without merit and unfair, I have since 2013 tried to take full responsibility for my mistakes, and make amends wherever possible. I rode my heart out for the Postal cycling team, and was always especially proud to wear the red, white and blue eagle on my chest when competing in the Tour de France. Those memories are very real and mean a lot to me.”
The prospect of losing his fortune had loomed over Armstrong, 46, since the case was filed in 2010. It was the most daunting of the legal woes that have dogged him since he confessed. A statement from Peters’ law firm said the settlement had ended “all litigation against Armstrong related to his 2013 admission that during his career as a professional cyclist he had used performance-enhancing substances.”
Floyd Landis, a former teammate of Armstrong’s, was the original plaintiff in the case, acting as a whistleblower, with a chance to receive a share of any money recovered by the government. The government chose to join the case after Armstrong’s confession in 2013, and the Postal Service claimed it would not have sponsored the team if it had known Armstrong was doping.
Landis, who also doped during his cycling career and was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title, will receive $1.1 million of the government’s $5 million. In addition to the $5 million settlement, Armstrong will, as noted, pay Landis’ legal costs.
“It has been a difficult ordeal, and public opinion was not always on my side,” Landis said in a statement from his lawyer’s office. “But it was the right thing to do and I am hopeful that some positive changes for cycling and sport in general will be the result.”
“No one is above the law,” Chad A. Readler, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil division, said Thursday in a statement. “A competitor who intentionally uses illegal P.E.D.s not only deceives fellow competitors and fans, but also sponsors, who help make sporting competitions possible. This settlement demonstrates that those who cheat the government will be held accountable.”
The government had also considered pursuing criminal fraud charges against Armstrong almost a year before he confessed, but it dropped the case.
Federal prosecutors said Friday that they had closed their investigation of Lance Armstrong without charging him, nearly two years after they began looking into allegations that he and his cycling teammates committed a variety of possible crimes by doping. The possible crimes being investigated included the defrauding of the government, drug trafficking, money laundering and conspiracy involving Armstrong and other top cyclists. In particular, the authorities were exploring whether money from the United States Postal Service was used to buy performance-enhancing drugs. None of these are easy links to make.
André Birotte Jr., the United States attorney for the Central District of California, announced the end of the investigation, which involved several federal agencies, in a brief statement. He did not cite a reason for the decision and declined to comment further.
Here’s to hoping that Lance Armstrong can seek true forgiveness and objectively demonstrate why he deserves it. With the way he has treated those in his past, despite his confession to Oprah, he has a ways to go.