Who can forget the deposition of Tony Huge? I think we’ve all seen bits and pieces of it throughout YouTube and featured on countless fitness media programs. Tony Huge, a licensed attorney, had a formal legal education, passed the bar, and worked in the legal profession in and out of court. That being said, there were several instances during the questioning where Tony was having trouble figuring out what he could and couldn’t answer. One reason he was having such difficulty is because questions asked during civil litigation may have found their way to any pending criminal proceedings. One angle of the case was to tie Huge to Enhanced Athlete. In any event, if an experienced attorney was failing miserably at trying to see where the questions were going and if answering them would incriminate him, then imagine the nightmare a deposition would be for a lay person.
Depositions shouldn’t be difficult if you have nothing to hide, but if it’s your goal to thwart the efforts of opposing counsel, you could find yourself in a world of trouble with the court, not limited to being fined and/or put in contempt of court.
While those who are deposed may have an attorney present that does not mean said officer of the court can shield their client with objections and baseless delays. Such tactics are not only an example of bad faith, but they will anger the Court, and may result in sanctions for the attorney. Also, unless you hired the attorney by your side, then that may not be YOUR attorney. An attorney for an organization you’re a part of, may not have your legal interests at heart. His/her job is protect whoever pays their fee – no one else. Moreover, as previously stated, any obstruction may result in a contempt charge.
Keep in mind that the party who organizes the deposition is footing the bill with the hope of getting more evidence in the case. Depositions are an increasingly common approach to discovery. Unlike interrogatories (where questions are sent off and received), depositions allow counsel to question parties and witnesses directly. Some depositions may take a few minutes to a few hours to even several days. As soon as the parties are sworn-in, absolutely everything is on the record, and will likely be audio and visually recorded. Anything you say – as the Miranda warning goes – can be used against you in court. What I mean by that is, if opposing counsel gets you to concede that contest rigging took place at a bodybuilding show, but then you testify in open court to the contrary, then your testimony from the deposition can be used to impeach your testimony in court. If this happens more than once or twice, your credibility will be completely lost. And if it’s deemed you’re intentionally lying, then you could face perjury and contempt charges.
Lying in a deposition is a really bad idea. Apart from the fact it’s morally reprehensible, I can promise you that you will not outsmart opposing counsel or the master/judge. Folks who have been deposed for days on end provide a massive amount of information – most of which is seemingly trivial. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Opposing counsel may only need a little bit of testimony from Day 1, maybe a little from Day 2, and maybe the only thing they need from Day 3 is to tie one loose end from another witness’s testimony or to explain some mundane detail that helps to create the smoking gun that decides the case or leads to a lightning fast out-of-court settlement. That’s the power of properly run deposition.
Many folks who are deposed figure that if worse comes to worse they can simply plead the 5th. Although some civil attorneys debate the 5th’s application in civil proceedings, you have the right not to answer questions that will incriminate you. At least that’s my opinion; however, you cannot use the 5th to protect someone else and definitely not to protect a federation. Moreover, many times people will answer some questions and plead the fifth for others. We saw this in the Tony Huge deposition, where bless his heart, he actually answered some question he may have been better off invoking the 5th on. There are instances where a deposed individual won’t answer anything besides their oath to tell the truth, questions about their identity, and/or other non-testimony type queries. Every single other question gets the same answer “I plead the 5th.” A classic example of this would be Philadelphia crime boss Nicky Scarfo’s congressional hearing testimony. Even though he had his attorney, Bobby Simone, at his side, he didn’t answer a single substantive question.
That said very little looks more guilty than pleading the 5th the way a deposed witnesses like Mr. Scarfo did. Another great way to look guilty is when a named party defendant refuses to take the stand. That just screams innocence… The fact of the matter is, invoking the 5th is letting the world know that you’re hiding something. Innocent people don’t hide behind the 5th amendment and if the person invoking fifth amendment protection is found to be doing so in a purely obstructionist fashion, lacking any legal applicability, they can find themselves fined and imprisoned. The Court won’t be amused in the least by a witness’s loyalty to a bodybuilding federation. Wasting the court’s time and/or giving false statements will be dealt with swiftly and appropriately.
And very much like in the Tony Huge deposition, testimony provided at that deposition, could have been used at a later date if a criminal case ever got underway. For those wondering whatever happened with Tony’s case – he settled out of court. You can draw your own conclusions.
If and when Lisa Bloom of The Bloom Law Firm deposes key members of the National Physique Committee (“NPC”) including but not limited to Jim Manion, Tyler, Manion, J.M. Manion, Gary Udit and others, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll invoke the 5th amendment from beginning to end. Then again, they may not have a choice given the growing rumors that two cases are currently being worked on by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. If Ohio seeks to criminally prosecute The Manion’s for tax-related offenses, this would also prompt federal authorities to get involved as well. The leaders of the NPC reside in Pennsylvania, but chose Ohio to do business. Anytime state lines are crossed, that’s federal jurisdiction.
Should Ohio or the United States seek to prosecute said individuals for tax-related offenses, then in and/or out-of-court sworn statements from the [civil] class action lawsuit would be fair game for criminal proceedings. There’s also nothing stopping media outlets, such as The Washington Post or Inside Edition from sharing their findings with state and/or local authorities.
Another area of chief concern is potential contest rigging. In the late 1990’s top ranking officials of the International Boxing Federation (IBF) were subjected to a federal grand jury. Should similar causes of action arise from state and/or federal investigations into the aforementioned bodybuilding federation, we could see a situation where named defendants flip in exchange for immunity. Part of a typical deal would see them testifying against their former co-defendants. We could also see statements made during class action depositions used at the state and/or federal levels.
Right now this all speculative. We don’t know if the class action lawsuit will be filed, we don’t know if the Ohio Attorney General’s Office will pursue the two rumored cases, and we also don’t know if federal authorities are planning and/or will launch formal investigations. What we do know is that we’ve seen a series of front page articles by one of the oldest and most respected newspapers in the country (although it was called a tabloid by those it profiled). We also know that Inside Edition investigated the NPC and made its reports known to millions on primetime network television. We also know of Lisa Bloom’s work with prospective litigants and we know that several documentaries are in the works.
Only time will tell what happens next, but if bodybuilding federation officials are to be deposed either civilly and/or criminally, I suspect many will crack under pressure, especially because of the very high likelihood that civil litigation will just be the beginning. I would be shocked if the Ohio Attorney General’s Office did not act, and if they act, it’s a forgone conclusion that the Feds will be close behind.