Pay to Play

The son of a world—renowned chef says he wanted to reform the phone industry. The feds say he wanted to get rich quick.

The remark occurred during a discussion about the best way to disperse the funds that David would repay, given the logistical madness of sending checks for 24 cents to more than 2 million toll-free subscribers. David and his supporters contend that Geis' comment reveals two crucial points.

First, while passing along a mere 24 cents to David and Nisbet for each toll-free call, the long-distance carriers earned untold sums from those same calls. More critically, her statement implies that prosecutors knew the phone companies profited, but argued otherwise at trial.

"They buried that fact," Carbone says. Prosecutors also succeeded in persuading Illston to limit what Carlucci could say about the pay-phone surcharge case that David and Nisbet brought against AT&T. If jurors had heard that he helped force the carrier to adopt a reform beneficial to consumers, Carbone says, "They might have seen what he was trying to do with dial-around compensation in a similar light."

Questions for prosecutors about David's case were redirected to Luke Macaulay, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office. He dismisses the notion that the government deceived the jury. "The phone companies were victims in that they were mislead in the overall scheme," he says.

David's supporters believe that if the jury had heard about the long-distance carriers making money off his venture, its verdict might have changed. At least one juror disagrees. Told by SF Weeklythat the carriers in fact profited from David and Nisbet's autodialer phoning frenzy, Paul Sowell utters a blunt retort.

"That doesn't change anything. If these guys were about serving the public good, why cash the checks?"

Friends of the Davids are unsure whether father or son will have the harder time adjusting with Daniel behind bars. More than one person says Daniel's incarceration has left Narsai "a broken man."

Inside the prison, Daniel's resolve to gain a retrial has brought the prospect no closer than since he lost his appeal last summer. He has 29 more months to serve. Scott Nisbet does not.

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