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Trial By Fire

The Silicon War Triology

Chapter 6 - Hanging

 

As I walked into the Santa Clara Superior Court, I asked the Bailiff who D'Alquist was.  He just called out "Hey D'Alquist" and this man in a gray three piece suit turned and walked over to me.

"Mr. Contie?  Hi I'm Toni D'Alquist, the District Attorney on your case, I'm glad you would meet with me.  Have you heard?"

"No sir.  Heard what"?

As we moved aside to the seating area, he said "Did you hear what happened to Andrew Bouré over the weekend?  He was hung".

Now, whether it was shock, anger or just the final frustration coming out, I don't really know but the brief case I was holding was tossed at the unoccupied chairs.  It opened sending everything in the air and I also heard myself say "Shit, what the hell do you people think you are.  This isn't Russia where you hang people".

Well, the Bailiff was on the move to protect D'Alquist when he waved the Bailiff off.

"Bob come in here" D'Alquist insisted and he and I went into the men's bathroom.

"What really happened, is he ok.  How is he" I asked first?

"He's alive, and under the circumstances, fine.  Look, I have to know something off the record about what Bouré really did".

"Look Toni, Bouré is a salesman and was selling the technology that's it.  This thing about bribing someone is bull shit.  He would not be authorized by Gopal to do that.  Anyway, Bouré was nothing but a point man for Gopal.  But to hang him is just not fair.  What's wrong with this town that you would do something like that"?

"Look, this is not what we expected, it was unauthorized and an investigation is underway, but I need to know more about Bouré".

"Look Toni, I'm not a virgin in all of this, but whatever it is, Bouré is just a pawn.  He wasn't involved technically.  Sir… look.  You are accusing Gopal of stealing something that I design myself at Maruman.  Neither of them was even involved in this 2114 project at Maruman you say he stole.  Look… I know you need someone else involved to keep this conspiracy thing intact but give Bouré a break on this.  I'll stay on the sidelines until the end and not challenging the conspiracy until trial.  But Bouré is just an idiot that got involved in something he didn't know about".

"But Gopal said himself that the 2114 was stolen from Intel".

"Oh, bull [email protected]#.  Gopal was not involved in anything we did including the design and tooling.  I had direct orders from Asumi to keep him out of it and no one at Maruman wanted him involved.  He's just a loud mouth bull shitter that opened it at the wrong time.  Look, the moron just said that to make the chip sound more valuable.  And the last time I heard being a moron wasn't illegal.  If it was, we would all be in jail".

"Ok, one last question.  You and Gopal had an invoice to do things for $10,000.  What was that about"?

"Look, everything with Gopal was $10,000 this and $10,000 that.  But look closer, the money is never exchanged.  It just a phase or term he uses.  And as for a ‘invoice, it was only preliminary project planning that we did on a napkin but if you looked closer at what he wanted, the terms and what I would have to pay to earn that money, said I would lose a great deal of money.  There was no way I would do that.  I just don't have that type of money to gamble with".

"But there was a gun and $10,000 found".

"Well, that caught me by surprise too.  Look… I can't even come up with a bad excuse for that.  I just can't".

"Ok, I got to go now.  I have the Public Defender's office coming in to represent you today so just sit down and relax.  And Bob… thanks".

As he left the bathroom, I thought "If they hung Bouré, God, what would have happened to me if the roles were reversed"?

As I came out of the bathroom, the Bailiff handed me my briefcase back and asked "Are you all right now"?

"Yea.  But how could they do that to him"?

"Listen, we're all pissed off over that and understand we will get to the bottom of it".

It was less than 20 minutes later when Bouré arraignment was over and he walk away.  He pleaded "guilty to soliciting others" and put on probation.

Next up was Yamado's arraignment and then came word that Yamado had been released on a technicality.  Something about "the only evidence against Yamato was from the mouth of Contie, a co-defendant".

"What" I said when I first heard this?  "I haven't said anything about Yamato"!  But whatever it was, Yamato was now free and gone.  Fair or not, truthful or not, at this moment in time, he was now safe.  It was just Gopal and me now.

My arraignment was set for 11:15 am and I got into the courtroom early.  I sat three rows back of the bar on the right side.  Roger Conroy was the first one to walk in and come over.  He sat down in the row in front of me and said "Bob, I'm so sorry, what can I say".

Seconds later, Dave Weinstein walked in and sat down two seats to my left.  Although we looked at each other, it was Weinstein that first spoke "God, Bob we never want this to happen to you".

Conroy added "Bob, I just can't believe this happening".

Just then D'Alquist came in and took his position on the right side of the bar in front of us and was going thru papers when out of the corner of my eye, I saw him rush in.

He was a short, stocky man, late 50's and as he walked up on my left side, he yelled "You know, during WWII, we used to hang spies like you.  Traitor"!

Now both Weinstein and Conroy mouths fell open.  However D'Alquist just stopped what he was doing, turned around with his mouth open, and then called the bailiff over.  They instantly stopped the man who had just "threatened my life".

What few people would ever understand, this was the turning point in all of this bull shit.  See, Charles Borke, President of National Silicon had just threatened my life.

However, for me sitting there, the only thing that went thru my mind came out as "Dave, he has no idea of what was going on inside NSC.  They're lying to him.  He has no clue of what went on".  The President of National Silicon had no clue!

Of all the things never to do is make something personnel and Borke just did this.  Of all the things not to have done, this was it.  Even Conroy knew Borke had declared war and was playing brinksmanship in a nuclear first strike situation.  I think the words I used when I look back at Conroy were "So the bastard wants to play again.  Roger, you still want to try NSC in court"?

Conroy's eyes opened wide and before he could answer, there came the "In the case of People vs. Contie…"  It was show time.  This is when the bottom falls out your stomach and you want to throw up.

D'Alquist was kind enough to tell me to stand behind the left table and then he formally asked for assistance from the Public Defender's Office for me.  This was granted.

As Brian Bademeister, Deputy Public Defender stood up, and out of his mouth came "Your honor, we cannot represent Mr. Contie because he has income above the limit set by the state".

D'Alquist said "But your honor… under these circumstances, Mr. Contie will not be able to obtain employment in his field nor does he have the funds to retain a private attorney.  This is a very serious case against him, and he cannot be expected to represent himself especially under the use of this new law.  This will be difficult even for the most experienced lawyer".

The Judge said "Mr. Contie is this correct?  Are you unemployed and have no saving to fall back on"?

"Yes, your honor.  My wife and I just bought a house and all funds we had where used there".

The Judge said "Mr. Bademeister, I understand the Public Defender's position but for the time being, the Court orders the Public Defender to represent Mr. Contie".

"Your honor, I must object".

"Ok, we will postpone this for one week while Mr. Contie finds counsel".

 

**

 

The week went fast and in talking with various attorneys in the area, the case look very bad for me.  I would need to obtain at least $250,000 as a retainer.  Each name of the attorney I talked with was written down to give to the judge with a brief summary on my series of failure to obtain counsel.

Of course, when I went back into court with the results, the judge was pissed. 

Edwards did his best to smooth everything over with the Judge.  But in reality, it was already known throughout the legal community that this would be a very expensive trial on topics that had never been challenged in the Appeals court.  More important if any legal firm did represent me, they would never again get business from NSC.

The judge then gave me a list of 5 new attorneys to speak with that he knew and another delay of a week took place.  Again, I set up appointments with each and contacted 7 more on my own.  Each informed me of the same thing: "We need a retainer of $100,000 to start".

Well, this really upset the judge, and Bademeister was called back into the judge's chambers to discuss my inability to obtain counsel.  At issue was the fact that if you as a defendant make more than $30,000 in the last year, then you are disqualified from public assistance.  For the Santa Clara Public Defender's office to make an exception, would set the precedence for others to demand it and at the same time, it would violate the rules that setup for the Santa Clara Public Defender's office.

As they broke up the meeting in the Judge's chambers, Edwards came up to me and said "If you can keep this going on, it will force the Judge to grant my motion for the newly passed law called ‘Post-Indictment Preliminary Hearing' (Hawkins) and the DA doesn't want this.  It will force him to put all his cards on the table and I don't think he is ready for it.  I think he just wanted the publicity and jumped the gun".

"Great" I said.  Just what I needed so I was given another list of attorney names to check out.  Some were in San Francisco, others were in Oakland, and three that were interested, said that they had just passed the Bar but had not tried a case yet.  They only wanted $50,000 retainer.

Finally, the Judge called some of his friends that were attorneys for help.  He was informed that the case would be unbelievably expensive, last up to the three-year limit, consist of extensive appeals and most important, none of the firms would be able to solicit work from NSC again.

Finally, the Judge ordered Bademeister to represent me.  This brought the "Your honor, we object".  And for the first time the head of the Public Defender's Office (PDO) office came in front of the Judge to explain the budget, work load and limited resources that the PDO had.

"Noted: So, I want the PD's office to keep track of the hours spent representing the defendant.  We'll bill him later," the judge ordered.

"But your honor, we strongly object.  This is unprecedented".

"Noted".

As Bademeister caught up with me, he wanted to talk with me in an interview room used by the Public Defender's office.  As I tried to inform Bademeister of the facts of the case, I was repeatedly interrupted by him.  He indicated that his sole purpose in visiting me was to obtain personal and financial data.

He then wrote down the names and addresses of my family members, current and former employers, etc.  As to Maruman, I informed Bademeister that I had earned a weekly salary of $1,165.00 while employed at Maruman but had no other assets or significant funds.

This information was then taken back to the Judge as an appeal of his decision.  The Judge over ruled their argument.  Bademeister then requested a hearing, but again was turned down.  Nevertheless, a very important question was asked by the Judge.  "Mr. Bademeister, do you really think that the defendant is capable of defending himself"?

"No your honor, but by law we are not allowed to help him."

Bademeister's arguments to the judge were valid and as a good attorney, any further delay he could create would have pushed my arraignment into the new legal era of "Post-Indictment, Preliminary Hearings".

Well, he tried - we missed the deadline by four days.  No post indictment hearing for me.

 

**

 

Now, my arraignment hearing had more people in it than usual and finally the time had come to do something.  The Judge again ordered Bademeister to represent me, and he again got back from Bademeister "Your honor, I object".

"Noted.  Mr. Contie, how do you plea" the Judge asked?

I stood up and said "Ah, your honor.  I'm sorry, but I don't really know what I am being charged with"?

"It says here, ‘thief of trade secrets', ‘possession of stolen property' and ‘conspiracy'".

"Yes, sir, but whose trade secrets' was it and what was the ‘object' stolen"?

On the right side of the courtroom came the first chuckle, which was frowned on by the Judge.

"It doesn't say.  Mr. D'Alquist, can you enlighten him"?

"Yes, your honor.  Mr. Contie is being charged with the ‘theft of a trade secret, possession of that trade secret and conspiracy with codefendant Peter Gopal".

"Does this help Mr. Contie"?

"No your honor, what was this ‘trade secret' exactly.  The phrase ‘trade secret' is un-constitutional vague and broad.  Can the District Attorney be more specific?  May I give you an example of my confusion, I have been charged with Murder One, but the ADA does not have to tell me who it was that I killed, or even if it was a male or female".

"Your honor" D'Alquist interrupted "as an employee of National Silicon, Mr. Contie created and then stole a magnetic tape containing the trade secret belonging to National Silicon when he left their employment.  He then was in the possession of National Silicon's 8080A data base tape at Transmask Corp on September 22, 1978 and he conspired with Gopal to work on and sell this project work product to others".

"But your honor" I now interrupted "this is where I'm confused.  The 8080A chip is an Intel Corporation product or an Intel Trade Secret not NSC's.  There must be some confusion here.  I'm authorized to be in the possession of any and all Intel Trade Secrets.  And…"

From the right side of the courtroom, came the loud "Yes!"  Conroy was the first to understand where I was going.  Do you know how many beers and barbeques we had together as he attempted to teach me where I was about to go?  See his son and my son were on the same soccer team, and this is what two "parents" talked about during those after game pizza parties.

Although the courtroom did not understand it at first, I had just challenged the right of NSC to claim protection using the California Law, PC 499c – Theft of Trade Secrets.  National was not the rightful owner of the "reversed engineered copy" of the Intel Trade Secret.  National opened the barn door, and Conroy, one of the Valley's top copyright attorneys was now going to get his trial.

The judge was quite disturbed by Conroy's outburst, and finally ordered "We'll let the trial court handle this dispute, so I will enter a plea for the defendant of ‘not guilty'.  Court Dismissed".

As I left the courtroom, three microphones were shoved into my face for me to explain.  They got the "No Comment".  Then as I walked away, I stopped and added.  "Hey guys, go off the record for a second".

"Ok…"

As I pointed at Conroy "This is an area that Roger Conroy, General Counsel of Intel is an expert in, that gentlemen can describe the concept better than anyone.  Just bring up theft of a reverse engineered chip and does that create a new and unique trade secret". 

And that was that.  If NSC wanted to play with me, so be it.  I wasn't in their attorneys' league, but Roger Conroy definitely was.  So if NSC wanted to play again, well... I do make a great pawn!

 

***

 

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