With one juror holding out for acquittal in Richard T. Silberman’s money-laundering trial, a federal judge on Friday declared a mistrial on the central charges that the San Diego financier laundered cash alleged to be drug money.
Silberman, who once served as a top aide to former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., had been convicted Thursday of violating a federal currency law. He could be sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for that conviction, although new federal sentencing guidelines suggest a term of one to five years is likely.
U.S. District Judge J. Lawrence Irving, who declared the mistrial on the other counts, sent Silberman back to jail without bail Friday to await sentencing on Sept. 25.
Citing Silberman’s disappearance to Las Vegas and purported suicide attempt in February as proof the prominent businessman could be a flight risk, Irving had ordered Silberman into custody after the guilty verdict Thursday. On Friday, the judge stuck to that decision, saying he remained “troubled” by the “incident in Las Vegas.”
Silberman, 61, who is married to San Diego County Supervisor Susan Golding, stood trial on seven counts. He is accused of laundering $300,000 that an undercover FBI agent purportedly characterized as Colombian drug proceeds.
When he was arrested in a San Diego hotel in April, 1989, Silberman already had completed two money-laundering deals and was negotiating to do a third with the undercover agent, who had posed as a front man for Colombian drug lords, prosecutors alleged.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Charles F. Gorder Jr. said Friday that he plans to retry Silberman on the unresolved charges. Lead defense attorney James J. Brosnahan said he would appeal the conviction.
Almost all of the jurors, who deliberated for six days, hurriedly left the downtown San Diego federal courthouse without speaking to reporters. But foreman John T. Uliasz, 38, a Santee nurse, said the deadlock left the panel “extremely frustrated” and urged the government to seek a second trial.
Uliasz also said, however, that the verdict shows “the system needs a change. Things are getting too complicated for 12 people to agree on any one thing, almost.”
Brosnahan said that “any jury is going to have a lot of trouble in this case, because of the way it was done.” The case against Silberman evolved from an FBI sting operation.
Golding also said the government ought to reconsider, saying that Silberman “is a man who has never done anything against the law.”
Irving said that the law required him to send Silberman to jail unless there was clear proof there was no risk of flight.
Testimony at the trial established that Silberman had traveled overseas extensively, had contacts in Europe and Canada and has or had assets in Switzerland, Irving said. Given those factors, as well as the Las Vegas trip, which Irving called “something less than normal behavior,” the judge said there was no choice but to keep Silberman in custody.
Irving set a hearing for July 23 to discuss the next steps in the case.
Four other men were indicted along with Silberman, two of whom have pleaded guilty in recent weeks, each to a single count of violating federal currency laws. The other two go to trial Sept. 25.