(a) A person commits the crime of commercial bribery if he:..
(2) Confers, or agrees or offers to confer, any benefit upon any fiduciary without the consent of the latter’s beneficiary, with intent to improperly influence him to act or conduct himself contrary to his fiduciary obligation.
That’s a Class A misdemeanor, subject to imprisonment for up to one year. Anyway, Eddie Sexton is the lawyer who briefly represented Leigh Corfman, the woman who claimed Moore had molested her when she was 14. She was one of his biggest headaches scandal-wise: Although he was accused by other woman of chasing teenaged girls when he was in his 30s, Corfman was (if I recall correctly) the only one who was legally underaged at the time. Per WaPo, two men who were somehow connected to Moore’s campaign, Gary Lantrip and Bert Davi, approached Sexton to see if he’d be willing to drop Corfman as a client and issue a statement — to Breitbart.com — that he no longer believed her accusations.
The subject of $10,000 came up at one point, as did the possibility of meeting and maybe even doing some work for Steve Bannon. Sexton claims he met with Lantrip and Davi to hear them out, but that they weren’t the only ones at the meeting. Also in attendance: Matt Boyle and Aaron Klein of Breitbart.
Sexton said he arrived at the Pelham office and joined Lantrip and Davi in a conference room. He said Lantrip told him that they had the money for him. Boyle, Breitbart’s Washington bureau chief, soon joined them, he said. Minutes later, Aaron Klein, Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief walked in, Sexton said…
On the table was a notebook, he said, opened to a page that contained the handwritten statement he was expected to sign. There was little small talk, Sexton said. He said they began discussing the possibility of issuing a statement about Corfman’s credibility…
“I don’t know how y’all, or how anybody, would ever believe me,” Sexton said he told them. “And Matt and Aaron kind of tell me, ‘Well, that’s not really the point of whether or not anybody believes you. It’s just, you know, getting other information out there.’”…
Sexton said he ripped the page with the handwritten statement from the notebook as he left the meeting. He says he does not know who wrote it.
WaPo has a photo of the handwritten page. Sexton was understandably nervous after the meeting about possible criminal jeopardy and told a lawyer friend what had happened. They agreed that he should go to the feds and report the bribe, but he was told by the local U.S. Attorney’s office that there’s no federal statute that criminalizes offering a bribe to someone to lie about a person to whom they owe a fiduciary duty. There is in Alabama, though! (Did Lantrip and Davi violate it, though? WaPo notes that Sexton quietly dropped Corfman as a client early on, as his law firm was wary of the political furor around her. It may be that he owed no duty to her beyond confidentiality by the time he was asked to sign the statement saying he disbelieved her.)
Political media is buzzing about the story because of the possibility that Bannon and/or Breitbart were behind the $10,000 offer. Did Davi and Lantrip freelance this bribe, scraping together the cash themselves and informing Breitbart only that Corfman’s lawyer might want to talk to them, or did Bannon put them up to it knowing full well that money was on the table? Did he supply the money himself? Sexton recorded his next conversation with Lantrip:
“Where in the hell did you get these guys?” Sexton asked Lantrip, referring to the Breitbart reporters.
“That’s the first time I met them today, and we just been talking with Bannon and then with Roy Moore and then with [Moore supporter] Rand Paul. We never met those guys until today,” Lantrip said in the recorded call, a copy of which was obtained by The Post. (A spokesman for Rand Paul said the senator does not know Davi or Lantrip and had no involvement in seeking the statement.)
“I mean, have y’all — have they already paid y’all money?” Sexton asked.
“No, just what I’m about to give you,” Lantrip replied.
“We got the 10,” Lantrip said, pausing briefly, “dollars. We got that, but it, it don’t matter.”
That makes it sound like Bannon, Moore, and Rand Paul(!) knew about the approach and that someone — it’s unclear who — did indeed provide the money to Lantrip and Davi. In fact, during their initial approach to Sexton, before the meeting with Boyle and Klein, Davi allegedly said that Bannon “wanted to talk about whether Sexton would say publicly that he did not believe Corfman.” If that’s true, then Bannon was working with the two on their outreach to Sexton early on. The question is whether he was involved with the bribe. Bannon had a lot on the line in Alabama; his great populist hope, the man who was going to singlehandedly prove that Bannon-backed candidates are viable in general elections, was suddenly in peril from scandal. Would Bannon have been willing to hand over a fat envelope to the lawyer for one of Moore’s accusers in the name of “clouding” the accusations against Moore?
A man with the moral scruples of Steve Bannon? Nah, I don’t buy it.
Sexton and Davi admit to arranging the meeting with Sexton and the Breitbart reporters but deny that anything improper happened. Breitbart denies that Boyle and Klein knew anything about money and says it has no idea who wrote the handwritten statement meant for Sexton to sign. Davi, who claims he’s known Bannon for years (and has both a state and federal rap sheet), says anything to do with money or other compensation would have been between Sexton and Lantrip. No one’s going to get prosecuted for this (I think) but if in fact Steve Bannon fronted ten grand to try to bribe someone into lying to his website in the name of winning an election, that would be an interesting insight into the sort of journalism he practiced at Breitbart. And the sort of journalism he might soon be practicing again at … Newsweek?
One last intriguing note. Sexton didn’t come to WaPo with his story. Much like they did with Corfman herself, the paper claims that they got a tip, dug for details, then went to Sexton with what they had and he confirmed it for them. Quote: “Sexton decided to speak publicly after repeated requests over months from Post reporters, who contacted him after obtaining one of the recordings.” Where did they get a recording of Sexton on the phone if not from Sexton himself? They sure didn’t get it from Lantrip or Davi. Did his lawyer friend record one of their conversations about how to handle the bribe offer?