News & Politics

Lawyer Robert Simels Gets 14 Years for Attempts to Tamper With, “Neutralize” Witnesses


In March the Voice reported on the case of Robert Simels, a high-powered attorney for high-level crooks from Henry Hill (the “hero” of GoodFellas) to major drug dealers with a low level of regard for human life, which prosecutors suggested Simels shared and enabled. Sample from the story:

According to the affidavit, Simels then cautioned the informant about killing the witness’s mother, but said, “Whatever [my client’s] got to do financially, he’s going to do to resolve these issues. [Pause.] There is money that’s available.” Then the informant, according to the affidavit, “suggested that John Doe No. 1 ‘might suddenly get amnesia,’ ” to which Simels allegedly replied, “That’s a terrible thing, but if it happens, it happens.”

On Friday Simels was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Simels was found guilty of multiple charges of witness tampering, bribery, and illegal possession of eavesdropping equipment in August. In representing Guyanese drug lord Shaheed “Roger” Khan, the jury found, Simels had encouraged a man he believed to be an assassin, Selwyn Vaughn, to “eliminate” and “neutralize” witnesses whose testimony might convict Khan. Vaughn turned out to be an informant, and their conversation was taped and admitted as evidence. Simels had argued that “eliminate” and “neutralize” were figures of speech — that is, not the kind a normal listener would infer (“[The Guyanese] sometimes speak in a very unappealing fashion so I spoke down in a manner he would appreciate”) — but the jury didn’t buy it.

Simels was thereafter released and electronically monitored. His lawyer asked for a sentence of three years; Simels could have gotten life. After his sentencing he was ordered to report to prison Tuesday.

His onetime associate, Arienne Irving, also found guilty of witness tampering in the same case, had her conviction thrown out by the judge on a Rule 29 motion and was not sentenced. She was not on hand for her former colleague’s sentencing, and was “celebrating the dismissal with her parents in midtown Manhattan,” says the New York Law Journal. Federal prosecutors have not said whether they’ll appeal the judge’s decision in her case.



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