Rajaratnam fights to keep medical issues private

AP News
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Posted: Oct 03, 2011 6:07 PM
Rajaratnam fights to keep medical issues private

Lawyers for a one-time billionaire hedge fund founder told a judge Monday that he should not unseal arguments about their client's medical issues before his insider trading sentencing next week because it may set off a "salacious and morbid media feeding frenzy."

The lawyers for 54-year-old Raj Rajaratnam acknowledged that they had turned over "sensitive and private information" to the judge along with their request that he be treated leniently at his Oct. 13 sentencing. But they said federal court rules and court precedent in this part of the country dictate that the information should remain confidential.

Prosecutors said last week it was only fair to unseal the information since Rajaratnam was asking for leniency in part on medical grounds from a potential sentence of up to 30 years in prison. "When a defendant makes such arguments, he waives his right to privacy, particularly if those conditions influence the sentence to be imposed in any way," they said.

Rajaratnam's lawyers disagreed, saying private medical information is similar to other facts that can be concealed at sentencing, including details about the defendant's family, financial condition, history of drug or alcohol use or cooperation with law enforcement.

The lawyers wrote that a defendant "with genuine and well-founded concerns that imprisonment will shorten his life" is entitled to make the argument without subjecting himself to media exposure.

"The idea that Mr. Rajaratnam's interest in keeping his medical conditions private must yield to the public's prurient interest in such intimate details is absurd," the lawyers said. "No defendant should be forced to choose between providing the court with medical information relevant to sentencing and making himself the subject to a salacious and morbid media feeding frenzy."

They added: "The government's request would accomplish nothing except to expose Mr. Rajaratnam to even more public indignity than he has already suffered, and should be denied."

U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell, who will preside over the sentencing, did not immediately rule on the issue.

The Sri Lanka-born founder of Galleon Group funds was convicted in May of securities fraud charges after a jury reasoned that he made trades based on inside information provided by friends and business associates. Prosecutors said he earned more than $50 million in profits from his trades.

Prosecutors have asked that Rajaratnam be sentenced to between 23 1/2 years and 29 1/2 years in prison, consistent with their calculation of federal sentencing guidelines. The defense has asked repeatedly for leniency.