Acquittal By Judge Draws Criticism

For seven days, jurors sat riveted in US District Court, listening to convicted drug dealers testify in a money-laundering case against Charlestown lawyer Paul G. Foster that they delivered bags to him stuffed with as much as $100,000 cash.

But hours after prosecutors finished their case on Sept. 22, jurors received calls saying the case was over it had been decided by the judge.

US District Judge Joseph L. Tauro acquitted Foster in a ruling that cannot be appealed, and which prevents prosecutors from retrying him. The decision is final because Tauro acquitted Foster after the jury was sworn in, and before it could render a verdict. Federal prosecutors say Tauro's actions show that federal criminal rules need to be changed so judges cannot exercise unchecked authority. A juror in the Foster case said she felt the outcome signaled the jury had wasted its time.

The Judge said that "'The question in the case was not whether there was overwhelming evidence that he laundered money, the question was did he know there was drug money,' said Tauro. 'I found there was no evidence warranting giving it to a jury.'"

Details here from The Boston Globe via