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Murder One


Friday, September 2, 2011

United States Federal District Court

Seattle, Washington

She stood resolute, head held high, refusing to so much as flinch. After a decade as an assistant United States attorney, Rebecca Han had developed thick skin, but she would have needed the hide of an elephant to absorb the flogging Judge Myron Kozlowski continued to administer from the bench.

"Assuming there had been probable cause to establish that Mr. Vasiliev trafficked in drugs --- and I am not convinced there was ---that does not justify a search of Mr. Vasiliev's car dealership."

"Your Honor ---"

Kozlowski's hand shot from the sleeve of his black robe, one bony finger pointing like the Grim Reaper. "Do not interrupt me, counsel. I'll let you know when I'm finished." Each word sounded as if it were scratching the back of his throat raw. "By the government's theory, a legitimate business may be searched any time the owner of that business is suspected of engaging in drug trafficking anywhere. This is a dangerous assumption that goes well beyond any tolerable limits."

Han gripped the edge of the podium, holding on and holding back.

Kozlowski looked past her to the media-filled gallery of the modern courtroom. "I am fully aware of the publicity this matter has generated and its significance to certain members of the public. And I am fully aware of what a case such as this could potentially mean to an ambitious young lawyer."

Han pinched her lips, jaw clenched.

"But a United States attorney must be above the sway of the media and of self-aggrandizing, especially in situations such as this."

This time, Han did not attempt to respond. What was there to say? Kozlowski wasn't interested in argument; he was interested in another piece of her flesh.

"Overbroad warrants that authorize the search of every square inch of a defendant's place of business are the type of general searches specifically prohibited by the Fourth Amendment and abhorred by the colonists. That this warrant was in part based upon speculation by Drug Enforcement agents that Mr. Vasiliev associated with members of organized crime—specifically Russian mafia—is equally reprehensible and a generalization no less offensive to the Russian community than it has been to the Italian and Asian communities."

Kozlowski massaged his brow with his thumb and middle finger, leaving his eyebrows like tufts of untended lawn. His face resembled a malnourished midwestern scarecrow, skin stretched over sharp features, wrinkled at the neck and tucked beneath the white collar protruding above his robe. Sunken eye sockets encapsulated stark white orbs. He would have frightened even the most hardened of trick-o'-treaters.

"You've really given me no choice in this matter. As far as I am concerned, the U.S. attorney's office has no one to blame but itself. With a little more diligence, these problems could have been avoided." He shuffled the papers and scratched a pen across a page as he spoke. "I am granting the defendant's motion to suppress."

At Kozlowski's pronouncement, Filyp Vasiliev sat up in his chair at the counsel table, grinning as he ran a hand over his neatly shaved head. The ruling would prohibit the government from introducing at trial much of the evidence the DEA had gathered during a raid of Vasiliev's used-car dealership in Renton, Washington. Without the heroin and the incriminating statements, the government had no case. And everyone in the courtroom knew it.

Kozlowski rapped his gavel and retreated to his chambers before his bailiff had finished commanding the room to rise.

Han seethed, watching Vasiliev pick an imaginary piece of lint from the lapel of a shimmering pin-striped suit, rubbing his fingertips as if brushing aside the criminal charges. Standing, he

shook hands with his attorney.

"I told you," he said, accent thick. "No worries."

He patted the man's shoulder and then pushed through the waist-high wooden gate. Han watched as he gained an entourage of media, strolling down the aisle proclaiming his vindication. Just before the alcove leading to the large wooden doors, Vasiliev paused, though not to address a question or offer further comment. He scanned the spectators, finding his target. His nod and grin were nearly imperceptible, but his message delivered loud and clear.

Excerpted from MURDER ONE © Copyright 2011 by Robert Dugoni. Reprinted with permission by Touchstone. All rights reserved.

Murder One
by by Robert Dugoni