CaribWorldNews, BROOKLYN, NY, Fri. Aug. 21, 2009: The 62-year-old former lawyer of self-confessed Guyana drug dealer, Shaheed Roger Khan, has been found guilty in a Brooklyn court of plotting to kill witnesses associated with the Khan case.
Robert Simels was found guilty by a federal jury in Brooklyn, which had deliberated a week. Simels was convicted of tampering with eight witnesses against his then-client Khan.
His associate, Arienne Irving, was convicted on two counts of witness tampering.
The guilty decision seemed to stir anger in Simels, as he looked furious after the verdict was read. While Irving laid her head on the defense table and sobbed.
Simels and Khan were also convicted of possessing illegal eavesdropping equipment, which was seized in a raid on Simels` East Side offices.
Khan had hired the flamboyant attorney to defend him in 2006, after US federal agents arrested him in transit from Suriname to Guyana and slapped him with drug charges.
Simels had often insisted Khan was innocent and was kidnapped by US law enforcement officials. His defense also apparently included a witness elimination tactic, which was later disclosed to authorities by a former Khan worker.
In one taped conversation, with Selwyn Vaughn, a former Khan employee turned federal witness, Simels is heard suggesting a witness `might suddenly get amnesia` if paid enough money.
`That`s a terrible thing, but if it happens, it happens,` Simels responded. Later in the same meeting, the lawyer remarked: `Obviously, any witness you can eliminate is a good thing.`
In another discussion about locating relatives of a witness, Simels was recorded telling the cooperator that Khan had instructed, `Don`t kill the mother.`
Khan `thinks that if the mother gets killed that … the government will go crazy, and he`s probably right.`
Simels had insisted the terms he used on the tape with Vaughn were legalese not to be taken literally.
In his defense, he had claimed that he spoke `street` with thugs like Vaughn.
`Guyana is a Third World country,` Simels said during the trial. `They sometimes speak in a very unappealing fashion, so I spoke down in a manner he would appreciate.`
Earlier this year, Khan pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking, weapons charges and witness tampering in a plea deal expected to result in a 15-year sentence next month.
Meanwhile, during the Simels case, a number of bombshell disclosures were made by Vaughn, linking the current Guyana government to Khan and his now famous Phantom Death Squad.