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After Six Days on the Stand, Livent Witness Breaks Down

Prosecutors at the criminal fraud trial of Livent founders Garth Drabinsky and Myron Gottlieb were left scrambling this morning when their key witness did not show up. When proceedings began at 10 a.m. this morning, former Livent controller Chris Craib was nowhere to be seen. Calls to his home and office went to voicemail, prosecutors told the court.
Lawyers speculated that Craib could have been caught in transit delays that snared subway passengers in Toronto earlier this morning. But when he didnt show up by 11:30, there was talk about dispatching a police cruiser to his home to see if he was all right.
An apologetic Craib finally arrived after lunch. He explained that yesterday, he had been confused about the start time for court today after lawyers had suggested moving times to accommodate a medical appointment for one of the prosecutors. That idea was quickly shelved and the judge clearly explained to Craib that the trial would start on time before court disbanded. But it was a direction apparently lost on Craib.
The judge was not pleased and scolded Craib: “Leaving aside the issue as to whether there was scope for misunderstanding, the financial, emotional and other costs of the trial are enormous,”said Madam Justice Mary Lou Benotto. “The size of this courtroom is enormous and we are not able to do anything without your attendance.”
Ironically, Craibs confusion over start times has been a major focus for defence lawyers.A good part of their cross-examination has been spent grilling Craib about the exact start time of the now infamous April 24, 1998 executive meeting where Craib says he say Drabinsky and Gordon Eckstein, Livents former vice-president of finance and administration, openly discussed plans to manipulate the companys first quarter financial statements.
Craib says the meeting started at 2 p.m. But thats impossible since, at the time, Drabinsky was flying back from Washington and did not get back into Livents office until much later in the afternoon. Craib says he was merely confused about the time, but defence lawyers insist that Craib concocted the meeting as part of a plan he cooked up with his Maria Messina, Livents former chief financial officer, to frame Drabinsky and Gottlieb.
As a result of Craibs tardiness, there was very little time to actually question Craib today. But Brian Greenspan, the defence lawyer representing Gottlieb, still found time to grill Craib about those discrepancies between the audiotape of his interview with Stikeman Elliot lawyers and a transcript of that interview that Greenspan highlighted yesterday; the indemnity agreement he signed with Livent in which he agreed to cooperate with their investigation in return for immunity from prosecution or civil action and an incident where he consulted a lawyer in an attempt to stop Eckstein from harassing him at work.
Before going to the lawyer, Craib and Messina met with Gottlieb to see if he could intercede on his behalf. Greenspan asked Craib why he would turn to the man he believes was responsible for accounting fraud at Livent for help in dealing with Eckstein.
Let me get this straight, Greenspan said. You are cowering in a corner, fearful of all the terrible things that are going to befall you and you go to one of the evil-doers for wise counsel and you go to a lawyer for advice on Gordon Eckstein.
Yes, replied Craib.
Prosecutor Alex Hrybinsky returned to that quote later during his brief re-examination of the witness and asked him if cowering in the corner was an accurate depiction of his time at Livent. Craib said it was not. And then, after six days on the witness stand and five days under intense cross-examination, he began to break down.
There was always this undertow in your life and you just. Craibs voice trailed off and he began to choke back tears. At various stages you have some fortitude and you tried to do something to address it. But ultimately you failed.
But Craibs time on the witness stand is still not over. A problem arose last week when prosecutors could not locate the original version of notes Craib says he took during that April 24 meeting. Searches by Stikeman and Craibs lawyers were unsuccessful. However, the document was finally found in the files of the U.S. Justice Department. The document was actually delivered to the courtroom by Federal Express yesterday and opened in the presence of both prosecutors and defence lawyers.
But with the original document now in evidence, Eddie Greenspan has asked for the chance to ask Craib questions about that document. As a result, Craib will return to the witness box tomorrow morning.