In an extraordinary win, reported widely in the media, a Washington, DC-based team led by William Sullivan, Jr., persuaded Judge Mary Geiger Lewis of the U.S. District Court for South Carolina to dismiss in its entirety the indictment charging Pillsbury’s client, Jeffrey Benjamin, with various serious charges, including conspiracy, wire fraud and securities violations, on the grounds that his constitutional rights were violated when the government presented its case to a per se biased grand jury. Benjamin, who was the Senior Vice President for New Plants and Major Projects at Westinghouse Electric Company (WEC), was charged in connection with the failed construction of the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant in Jenkinsville, South Carolina. The government alleged that Benjamin hid and misled the status of the V.C. Summer project from 2015 to 2017 to maintain cash flow and liquidity for WEC.
Benjamin was indicted by a grand jury composed of a pool of citizens from throughout the state of South Carolina. Benjamin’s Pillsbury defense team moved to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that the grand jury was biased insofar as it included ratepayers—the specific alleged “victims” of the crime. Judge Lewis agreed and noted in her August 2, 2023 order that the government “failed to identify and recuse those grand jurors who were ratepayers to the Owners.”
The court held that the government’s failure in this respect was a violation of Benjamin’s constitutional right to an unbiased jury. Judge Lewis further explained that “The Court recognizes that dismissal is a drastic remedy. Constitutional violations, however, constitute extreme cases. To protect the law as an institution, … the community at large, and … the democratic ideal reflected in the processes of our courts[,] the Court must take all necessary steps, including, in this case, dismissal of the indictment.”
The Pillsbury team included Corporate Investigations & White Collar Defense partners William Sullivan, Jr., Thomas Hill and Patrick Hovakimian; Litigation counsel Drew Navikas, senior associates Brian Beckerman and Christopher Butler, associates Patti Rothenberg-Montz, Philip He and Sarah Madigan and Senior Law Clerks Kristina Sgambati and Andrea Shang; Government Law & Strategies associate Johnna Purcell; attorney Andrew Gibson; Commercial Litigation associate Yona Starosta and Senior Law Clerk Leighton Watson.