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Free at Last: The Broadcom Trial

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This story began in 2006 when a professor from a Midwestern university published a statistical analysis suggesting that many corporations must have used hindsight in selecting dates to grant stock options to their employees. The media quickly jumped on board and applied a label of "backdating" to the practice. It turns out backdating is not illegal per se, as long as it is accounted for properly. At last count over 220 companies have filed amended or restated financial statements to correct their accounting. One of the companies who corrected their accounting was Broadcom Corporation, a very successful technology company that makes semiconductor chips for everything from cable set-top boxes to Bluetooth headsets to iPhone chips. As a result of this restatement two of the company's officers -- including Bill Ruehle -- were charged criminally by the DOJ. Throughout the pre-trial period, Bill Ruehle's wife, Julie, wrote to family and friends about the proceedings. The following is Bill's wife's personal account for the final stage of this ordeal.

Indeed, Bill has received justice.

It was a long journey with astounding intensity that could have had a potentially disastrous outcome. There were times that Bill and I felt we were standing on very shaky ground and we had to keep our balance no matter how strong the jolts were. Or sometimes it felt like riding a monumental wave that could crash down and sweep our dead bodies to the shore. The intensity and difficulty taught us something very important. We learned that the very shaky ground and the tumultuous wave that could sweep us to our demise could also be the means to our survival; an anchor to hold on to as long as we learn how to keep our balance and stay centered. We did it while holding each other's hand very tightly and with our relentless defense team that would not give up. And most importantly, we had you cheering us along all the way.

The Trial

The trial began with Nancy Tullos, the Vice President of Human Resources at Broadcom, who had many misleading things to say about Bill. During her cross examination by our lead defense lawyer, Rich (I refer to him as God sometimes in this context) she admitted to lying to the SEC and was confronted with many inconsistencies in her statements. Rich and his team (I refer to them as our angels in this context) knew all 6 million plus pages of emails and documents in this case inside and out and they were able to expose her for her lies. I have to say, her testimony stressed me the most.

Then it came time for us to put our defense case. We really didn't have to do it but something in our gut told us we should. We wanted Henry Samueli and David Dull on the stand and as it turned out, the judge did also. He granted them immunity to testify for us and the government objected and pleaded against it. Judge Carney always said he wanted the whole story to come out, and it was he who unlocked the door.

And it was that night, November 30th, when the immunity was granted that Andrew Stolper, the lead prosecutor, made contact with David Dull's attorney threatening him and encouraging him to incriminate Bill. You know the rest of the story from there. In short, all of his misdeeds were exposed -- coercing Nancy Tullos to shape her testimony, leaking information to the press, etc.

Once Henry and David testified, the rest was history. Judge Carney saw the case for what it truly was. Bill Ruehle and the good people of Broadcom did not defraud shareholders -- they behaved appropriately and conservatively within the boundaries they felt were allowed. In an attempt to criminalize this business behavior, the government had to resort to unbecoming means to secure a conviction -- the conviction of an innocent man.

We had the truth on our side, but if it weren't for Rich and his team's brilliant execution the truth might not have flown through the courtroom the way it did. If it weren't for Rich and his team, Bill would not have been exonerated. If it weren't for Rich and his team, Dr. Nicholas would have had to endure the ordeal of trial like Bill and I did. If it weren't for Rich and his team, Henry Samueli would have had to live with a lie he didn't tell for the rest of his life as a felon. If it weren't for Rich and his team, David Dull would have lived in fear of prosecution for more years to come. It weren't for Rich and his team, the government would not have been exposed for its misconduct. And if it weren't for the incredible courage and dedication to the truth of Judge Carney, the door would have stayed locked and truth would have remained hidden.

Exoneration

I can't even begin to describe to you what went on on Tuesday December 15, 2009. You can read Judge Carney's order/transcript for that day by clicking here and I strongly encourage everyone who believes in the justice system or has had doubts about it to read it. Bill and I read it as if it's our favorite poetry piece. Judge Carney saw what this case was about and what it was not about and he issued an order so eloquent and on point that I could not have even dreamed about in my wildest imagination. He asked for Rich and the defense attorneys of Nick, Henry and David (he referred to them as the "titans of the legal profession") to comment. They did and all of that is in the transcript attached. He acquitted Bill of all charges and dismissed the indictment due to prosecutorial misconduct for Bill and Nick. My favorite quotes are:

To submit this case to the jury would make a mockery of Mr. Ruehle's Constitutional right .. to a fair trial;


The lead prosecutor somehow forgot that truth is never negotiable;

The government embarked on a campaign of intimidation and other misconduct to embarrass [Henry Samueli, Broadcom's co-founder and witness in the case] and bring him down ... The government's treatment of Dr. Samueli was shameful and contrary to American values of decency;

I'm sure there are going to be many people who are going to be critical of my decision in this case and argue that I'm being too hard on the government. I strongly disagree . . . You only have three witnesses to prove your innocence and the government has intimidated and improperly influenced each one of them. Is that fair? Is that Justice? I say absolutely not.

Mr. Ruehle, you are a free man.

Post Trial - Meet the Jurors and the Judge

We woke up on Wednesday in a state of disbelief about what had transpired. For three years, we had to be in "fight" mode and continuously reminding each other the importance of staying focused. For three years, we viewed the world and its offering as temporary events and never truly counted on much other than each other's love and strength. For three years, we had our fences up and all of a sudden, on Wednesday, we had to take them down. It felt very unreal: how do we live without this dark cloud that's been hanging over us? We had lived with the expectation of thunderous showers and rain for three years and now it was gone. We felt the ground was removed from under our feet. It was then that we realized we drew strength from this "difficult" thing we were fighting. We became very strong because we had to. I cried when a truck pulled up to our driveway and took away a mountain of binders and papers we had to read and study for our defense at trial. I felt a part of me was being moved away. It felt somewhat therapeutic, but also brought fears. How or what are we supposed to feel next?

On Thursday, we went in for the judge to dismiss the jury (you can read juror interviews here). It was a truly blissful experience. To tell you the truth, I was looking forward to going in to see the judge and quietly, in my mind, thanking him and saying good-bye. I had this extreme need to express my gratitude to him and I knew there was no way I would be allowed to talk to him. But then he did the unbelievable thing again. He allowed the jurors to come back to the courtroom to see us, and every single one of them gave Bill and me a hug or a hand shake. I sobbed in the arms of one of them as she did, too. They all believed in Bill's innocence. And then the unbelievable thing happened. Judge Carney stepped down from the bench and shook Bill's hand as Bill gave him one of his favorite Judge Carney quotes back to him ("I was appointed to this position to do the right thing"). He then leaned over and gave me a hug. I finally had closure.