Lawyers for high-profile defense attorney Robert George attacked the government's star witness in the money laundering case against George, suggesting that the informant led the government to target George to exact revenge for a past dispute.
Federal prosecutors say secretly recorded conversations and other evidence builds an overwhelming case against George, but the defense says the case is built on the lies of the key witness, a career criminal with a long-time side job as a government informant named Ronald Dardinski.
Dardinski's criminal record spans more than 20 pages, and he's already been forced to admit on the stand that he used to be a mob enforcer who collected drug debts. He's also been a federal informant for years, making more than $75,000 from his informant work.
In this case, Dardinski secretly recorded conversations with George and a business man who allegedly laundered $200,000 in supposed drug money that was really government cash. The government says George took a $20,000 cut in return for brokering the deal.
One expert critical of the government's use of informants says prosecutors all too often let serious criminals direct the focus of their investigations.
"His crimes that the government has prosecuted him for are all crimes about unreliability and lying, and yet the government is relying on Mr. Dardinski and thousands of other offenders like him for information and, perhaps most troublingly, to select targets, to help the government decide who they are going to go after. This is a very troubling development," Loyola Law School Prof. Alexandra Natapoff told FOX Undercover earlier this year.
George's defense lawyers have recorded conversations of their own they say proves Dardinski had it out for George even before the government investigation began.
Dardinksi is heard talking to his girlfriend about trying to collect money he believes George owes him, saying, "I know where he lives... He knows what I'll do to him if he doesn't give me my money."
In another recording, he's heard bragging about his government connections, telling his girlfriend, "Trust me, they'll do what I tell them to do."
The defense is also picking away at the timeline of those secret recordings of George and forced Dardinski to admit he struggled to get George to go along with the money laundering plan.
In a recorded conversation played in court, George tells Dardinski that he doesn't want to be involved in the deal.
George: I have nothing to do with this.
Dardinski: I just figured it would insulate me through you. You know what I mean?
George: But what it does is it implicates me in something that I have nothing to do with.
George: I'm not saying I don't trust him, Ronnie, I'm saying I'm not involved. I can't do this kind of business. I don't want this kind of business.
George: I'm a freaking lawyer. Where am I lending money and taking money for clients? I'm not doing that.
Under questioning by the prosecutor, Dardinski said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration controlled the investigation, not him and that, despite those phone recordings from jail, he never really intended to harm George.
The case is expected to go to the jury by the end of next week.