When word spread that jurors had reached a verdict in the retrial of former Wall Street banker Frank Quattrone, two people quietly slipped into the back row of the cavernous courtroom.
U.S. Attorney David Kelley and a top deputy, Karen Patton Seymour, listened as a federal judge announced the decision - guilty on all counts. The two wore conservative, but detectable, smiles.They had good reason. Manhattan federal prosecutors, the lawyers on the front lines of the government's assault on white-collar corruption, have run up a remarkable winning streak.
Two months ago, Seymour and two other prosecutors won a conviction against Martha Stewart for lying about a stock sale - a tricky case because the celebrity homemaker's sale itself was never alleged to be improper.
In April, U.S. Technologies chief executive C. Gregory Earls was convicted of cheating investors out of about $15 million and diverting some of the money to a trust for his children.
And the Quattrone verdict, in which the banker was found guilty of obstructing justice and witness tampering, is the most high-profile conviction of a Wall Street figure since 1980s junk-bond king Michael Milken.
"Some of the luster off New York's star had dimmed over the years as some of this white-collar expertise spread across the country," said George Newhouse, a former federal prosecutor. "This re-establishes that New York is the pre-eminent U.S. attorney's office."
In the Quattrone retrial, prosecutors Steven Peikin and David Anders used cool, congenial questioning styles, presenting the government's case over just five days.
Anders later led a skillful cross-examination of Quattrone when he took the witness stand, methodically presenting one e-mail after another to show the banker was involved in how his bank allocated shares of hot new stocks.
Less prominent but equally important are guilty pleas in other fraud cases - like a 2002 plea by former Adelphia Communications Corp. executive James Brown, now testifying in the case against his former bosses.
The U.S. attorney's office scored a huge victory earlier this year by coaxing a guilty plea out of Scott Sullivan, the former WorldCom finance chief, who is expected to testify at trial against former CEO Bernard Ebbers.
Critics were quick to attack the prosecutors last fall, when Quattrone's first trial ended in a hung jury. They called the case flimsy, based on a single e-mail in which Quattrone encouraged bankers to destroy files.
Legal experts say the advantage in a second trial often tilts toward the defense because prosecutors have effectively tipped their hand in the first trial.
But the Quattrone prosecutors used the experience as a bit of theater at the retrial - re-reading Quattrone's original testimony, which some jurors thought was evasive. Peikin played himself, and Anders played Quattrone.