“Truth comes from taking an idea and arguing it from all sides until it is fully uncovered and well-polished. The best truth comes from hearty debate. We have the Greeks to thank for this legacy in our democracy,” Judge Charles P. Kocoras
On March 1, 2018, the 5th in a series of trial exercises sponsored by The National Hellenic Museum, 333 S. Halsted, Chicago, took place to a packed audience of lawyers and spectators in The Rubloff Auditorium of The Art Institute of Chicago, 230 S. Columbus Drive. “The Trial of Megacles” brought together some of Chicago’s best and most eloquent trial lawyers and jurists, as well as a distinguished panel of jurors. The combined legal/judicial talent on the dais this evening was staggering, and Megacles, though vigorously defended, was convicted.
While the verdict from the bench and jury was almost a foregone conclusion- only one juror held out for Megacles- it was the reasoning and shape of the arguments themselves that people came to hear. The lawyers spoke with passion, wit, and a profound understanding of the facts and issues.
WGN’s Andrea Darlas served as moderator, and said “Critical thinking can be smart and fun”. She advised the participants that attorney Dan K. Webb, former US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and long-time Chairman at Winston and Strawn could not be present, as he was once again engaged in trial. Unfortunately, Judge Richard A. Posner, beloved and much-lauded jurist and economist who was a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago from 1981 until 2017, also could not be in attendance; His Honor received the good wishes of all.
At issue were the actions of the Archon Megacles, who lured Olympian Cylon and his cohorts to their deaths. Some history and background:
The city-states were among the first units of government in Ancient Greece following the collapse of the Mycenaeans; they operated as individual units, were self-governed, and in some places- notably Athens- they were the foundation from which democracy eventually developed. They provided freedoms for the common man and were the beginnings of a democratic system in which individuals had the right to voice their opinions and cast votes on specific issues.
Today, we recognize the development of democracy as truly groundbreaking, but at the time, it wasn’t everywhere embraced. Cylon, an Athenian nobleman and Olympic athlete/hero with a powerful father-in-law, was filled with discontent over the new political system. He wasn’t alone; many members of the “high” class did not want to lose any of their power.
Cylon allegedly visited the Oracle at Delphi and was told to take control of Athens during the Festival of Zeus, of which the Olympic Games in 632 B.C. formed a part. He knew that during the Games the city and its government officials would be occupied. Using his political connections and leveraging his celebrity status, Cylon rallied 1500 supporters and attempted a coup. The nine Archons of Athens, it’s executive magistrates, confronted and stopped Cylon, forcing him and his followers to retreat and take asylum in the Temple of Athena on the Acropolis.
The Archon Megacles persuaded Cylon and his cohorts to leave the sanctuary of the temple and stand trial. He promised Cylon their lives would be spared if he appeared in court. However, shortly after Cylon and his men left the temple, they were stoned to death by order of Megacles, who claimed he acted thus because the rope the dissidents clutched had torn, a “go for it” sign from the Goddess Athena. Megacles’s fellow leaders were offended by his lies, believing that he had betrayed the core principles of the new democracy.
After a trial, Megacles was found guilty and punished for violating the sanctity of supplicants and subverting the laws of Athens. Furthermore, his entire family was cast out of the city for six generations and, according to legend, marked with a curse.
Brief biographies of the attorneys and highlights of their arguments follow:
Opening for the prosecution: Patrick J. Fitzgerald:
Formerly Chief of the Organized Crime-Terrorism Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, where he helped prosecute Usama Bin Laden, Fitgerald served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois for more than a decade before becoming a partner at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher and Flom.
Fitzgerald, a wry and clever orator, noted that “We are here to give Megacles what he stole from Kylon and his followers; we are here to have a fair trial. This is a great irony”. He accused Megacles of “subverting the laws of Athens and violating sanctuary”.
Opening for the defense: Robert A. Clifford:
Head of the firm that bears his name, he is a nationally known trial lawyer whose roster of successfully litigated significant cases is legion. He was the lead negotiator in the 1.2 billion dollar settlement of numerous 9/11 property damage claims following the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York. Clifford is equally well known for his constant contributions to the legal profession.
The soft spoken, low-key and gently witty strategist observed, “We are here to witness an unjust and unfair prosecution of an Athenian hero. Athens was on the cusp of democracy when Cylon, a coward, decided to invade.” About the fateful breaking of the rope, he quoted a line from a Phil Collins song, “Something happened on the way to heaven”. Pointing out that the rope had linked Cylon and his men to Athena, he quipped, “If you lose the line, you gotta do the crime”, concluding this “was a sign from Athena, who was protecting democracy”.
Examination of the expert witness: Christina Faklis Adair:
Formerly a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Charles P. Kocoras of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, she is an associate with Gozdecki, Del Giudice, Americus, Farkas and Brocato.
Adair skillfully adduced the underlying facts. Katherine Kelaidis, PHD, who has an astonishingly broad educational background and deep knowledge of her field, also had a propensity for clever repartee. When asked if her testimony would be consistent with her expertise, she replied, “If you can handle the truth”. About Cylon’s background attracting so many followers, she mentioned, “For some reason, they thought because somebody was famous, he would make a good leader”. As to the plausibility of Megacles’ belief in the symbolism of the torn rope, she told the assembly, “This was a world in which the Gods and prophecy were forever speaking”. She admitted soberly, “In any political upheaval, innocent people always die”.
Closing/ Rebuttal for the prosecution: Patrick M. Collins:
Formerly an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, he is a highly accomplished trial lawyer, a prolific author and a partner at King and Spaulding.
Collins is an energetic and colorful arguer; he spent a deal of time refuting Clifford, scorning the latter’s description of Megacles’ deception of Cylon as “a little bit of Athenian untruth” as “fake news”. He cogently pointed out “Evidence should not be seen through the prism of religion”.
Closing for the defense: Tinos Diamantatos:
A former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, he is a partner at Morgan Lewis, and a seasoned trial lawyer.
Diamontatos’ presented an argument formulated upon Greek rhetorical principals of organization: it was based on 3 points, and centered on the principle that, “In time of war, the law falls silent.” In discussing the Olympic Games, he painted a vivid picture of “nations coming together, when we can see above the problems of the world”. He stressed how crucial it was for Megacles to grasp “what Cylon was capable of”, and argued that “Considering all the information Megacles had when he made the fateful decision, his actions were justified.”
This reviewer had the opportunity to speak with Diamantatos after the verdict about his preparation for and experience on the case. His candid and enthusiastic remarks exemplified his reputation as a “formidable” opponent with a pronounced willingness to help those who call upon him. He described how this trial, working with these inspiring judges and exceptional lawyers “had a special importance (for him) as a Greek-American”. We discussed how carefully he had shaped his argument and Diamantatos candidly offered, “Every time you get a chance to practice a skill, you get better at it. “ Like a true rhetorician, he reminded me of the 3 C’s of ethically persuasive rhetorical discourse, “Credibility, Clarity and Confidence”.
After argument, the audience and jury* voted. The scales of justice tipped overwhelmingly in favor of a “guilty” verdict. Only one juror found Megacles innocent. The judges likewise voted for conviction.
Brief biographies on the panel of exceptionally distinguished judges and a few of their comments follow:
-The Honorable William J. Bauer, a Senior Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, formerly the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and previously a Judge on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
His Honor, ruling Megacles guilty in summary fashion, said that in his 52 years of judging cases he “Never heard four finer arguments”.
-The Honorable Charles P. Kocoras, a Senior United States Federal Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, formerly chief judge, and earlier Chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission.
His Honor, in ruling against Megacles stated, “In this case, the material facts are straightforward. Megacles acted as judge, jury and executioner. The promises made should have been kept.”
– The Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman, a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, formerly a justice of the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, 3rd Division.
Her Honor found Megacles guilty and averred, “The arguments- though compelling- are not evidence”.
-The Honorable Anna H. Demacopoulos, a judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Her Honor said how much she enjoyed the presentation, “We are all addicted to trials.” About the defense position she pronounced, “The defense of necessity allows someone to act in a criminal manner”. She found Megacles guilty.
*Members of the Jury included:
WBEZ, Chicago Public Media, Vice President & General Counsel Cynthia Photos Abbott; University of Illinois at Chicago Chancellor Michael D. Amiridis, Ph.D.; Cook County Public Administrator, Hon. Louis G. Apostol; Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, LLP, Partner & Vice Chair National Litigation George Apostolides; University of Illinois at Chicago African-American Cultural Center Director Lori D. Barcliff Baptista, Ph.D.; WGN Host Anna Davlantes; Calamos Wealth Management Sr. Vice President Anita Knotts; Cook County Circuit Court Judge Anthony C. Kyriakopoulos; U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development Office of Regional Counsel, Region V, Trial Attorney & Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Massouras; Former Chicago Public Schools CEO and former City of Chicago Budget Director Paul Gust Vallas; The Art Institute of Chicago Department of Ancient and Byzantine Art Research Associate Lorien Yonker
For information about all the fine exhibits and programs of The National Hellenic Museum, go to nationalhellenicmuseum website
All photos by Elios Photography