John Paczkowski

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Apple Accuses DOJ of Unfairly Twisting Steve Jobs’s Words

steve_jobs_ibooksSteve Jobs figures prominently in the U.S. Department of Justice’s e-book price-fixing case against Apple. His email messages to other executives at Apple and in the publishing industry, and his comments to biographer Walter Isaacson and others, have been gathered up by the agency and offered as proof of a conspiracy in which he was allegedly “the chief ringmaster.”

How does Apple rebut such accusations when Jobs is no longer around to help in mounting a defense by explaining those remarks himself?

That’s a key issue for Apple’s legal team as it spars with government attorneys who characterized Jobs’s various remarks as “direct evidence” and “published admissions” of conspiracy. So what’s the strategy for dealing with it?

By casting the government’s use of Jobs’s remarks as untoward and shady. And in his opening argument on Monday, Apple attorney Orin Snyder did exactly that, questioning the fairness of even using them as evidence, and lambasting the government for purposely taking Jobs’s remarks out of context.

Said Snyder, “There’s something inherently unfair and uncomfortable about placing such reliance on the out-of-court statements of someone who’s not here to explain them or place them into context — particularly when in almost every instance the government either omits key language to draw an inference, or blatantly mischaracterizes what the statements mean.”

So, in Apple’s eyes, not only is the DOJ cherry-picking Jobs’s remarks for maximum effect, it’s spinning them as something that they really aren’t. How do we know that? Because, according to Snyder, Jobs would never have been so foolish as make such potentially damning comments publicly.

Here’s Snyder again:

“To believe that [Jobs's] statements are direct, unambiguous evidence, admissions of a conspiracy, you have to credit the notion that he, in full public view and to his authorized biographer [whose book] he knew would be read by millions of people, made statements that can be interpreted in no other way than as unambiguous admissions of the price-fixing conspiracy charged in this case.”

And knowing what we know of Jobs, that is a tough notion to credit, indeed.

Certainly anything is possible, but the idea that Jobs — a CEO as savvy as they come — would ever publicly volunteer details about Apple’s interest or participation in an alleged e-book price-fixing scheme is pretty far-fetched. More to the point, without Jobs around to speak to the ideas behind those remarks or his state of mind when he made them, it’s very difficult to determine whether they support Apple’s prosecution or its defense.

Said Snyder, “We can’t read Mr. Jobs’s mind, but what we can do is look at the words he used, and they certainly aren’t unambiguous admissions of a conspiracy.”

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