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Archive for Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Tobacco trial testimony a setback to government

October 5, 2004

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— A longtime lawyer for major cigarette manufacturers said Monday government lawyers got it wrong when they speculated he would testify he knew firsthand that the industry had destroyed documents.

Justice Department lawyers had written in a court filing that attorney Robert Northrip would say he knew that documents central to a lawsuit in Australia were destroyed. The suit involved an Australian subsidiary of British American Tobacco Co., PLC.

But when Northrip took the stand Monday in the government's racketeering case against the industry, he said he first heard the allegations about document destruction when they became public as part of the court decision against the Australian company two years ago.

He also filed a document with the court last week saying the government was wrong to speculate he knew about document destruction in the Australia case.

Justice lawyers declined comment Monday.

David Bernick, who represents Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp., also owned by BATCo., said the government lost this round in the case.

"I think (Northrip) was supposed to be the key witness for them," Bernick said. "It turns out that he had no involvement in document destruction."

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