- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Federal prosecutors yesterday began closing arguments in the conspiracy and tax-evasion case against one of the District’s most prominent developers and two of his assistants, saying wealth and power made them think they were above the law.

“Douglas Jemal, Norman Jemal and Blake Esherick are here today because of their greed, their dishonesty and their arrogance,” said prosecutor Timothy G. Lynch.

Douglas Jemal, son Norman and Douglas Development Corp. leasing official Blake Esherick are facing charges that they gave a D.C. official $25,000 and gifts for favorable leasing deals with the city.

Michael Lorusso, former deputy in the D.C. Office of Property Management, pleaded guilty last year to bribery charges and cooperated with prosecutors, testifying against the three defendants earlier this month.

The bribes are said to have included a gold Rolex watch, $1,000 for two pairs of cowboy boots, hotel stays in Las Vegas and private box tickets to Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals games.

Providing a backdrop for his arguments, Mr. Lynch laid out the watch and the two pairs of cowboy boots on the prosecution table as he highlighted the case.

Mr. Lynch portrayed Douglas Jemal as a man obsessed with his next building purchase who created within the company “a culture in which there was no one to say ‘no.’” The prosecutor said the relationship between Douglas Jemal and the “terribly vain, terribly needy, terribly greedy” Lorusso created a “perfect storm.”

“It meant a lot of business for Douglas Jemal,” Mr. Lynch said.

He said it was unreasonable to think the sophisticated businessmen had been befriended, then duped by Lorusso.

The defendants also are accused of tax evasion and conspiracy to commit wire fraud unrelated to their contact with Lorusso, Mr. Lynch said.

He said Douglas Jemal paid Mr. Esherick in ways that made it difficult for the Internal Revenue Service to monitor, including offering thousands of dollars in payments each year to Mr. Esherick that were disguised as loans, making payments directly to Mr. Esherick’s ex-wife, paying thousands of dollars in car notes and providing him rent-free housing in the District.

The Jemals and Mr. Esherick did not testify on their behalf during the trial, which is expected to enter its 28th day this morning. Douglas and Norman Jemal each face 40 years in prison, and Mr. Esherick faces 45 years if convicted.

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