Bryan C. Szweda, who was an executive at St. Jude Medical before being charged last year with embezzling $140,000, wants to pry open his former employer’s files and says it is working closely with prosecutors to bring the case against him.
“St. Jude has essentially commandeered the criminal justice system to resolve an employment matter (i.e., it is the de facto prosecutor),” Szweda’s defense attorney, Paul C. Dworak, wrote in a recent motion. “The complaint [against Szweda] is St. Jude’s internal investigation, or at least the parts of it St. Jude wants public.”
Those observations were folded into a request to force the Little Canada-based medical device maker to turn over its entire file from its internal investigation into Szweda’s alleged thefts. In a short hearing last Friday, Ramsey County Judge Nicole Starr gave the sides two weeks to agree among themselves over whether any of the documents St. Jude considers protected by attorney-client privilege should be turned over.
Szweda, 40, is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 7 in Ramsey County court on five felony counts of theft by swindle related to $140,000 in credit card charges and expense account reimbursements he submitted while working as vice president of operations at St. Jude’s cardiology division. The expenses singled out by St. Jude, all between 2010 and 2014, included sports season tickets, an event at a Maple Grove go-cart track, several country music concerts and charges at a Minneapolis strip club.
Szweda was initially charged with a sixth count of theft of a trade secret for allegedly downloading sensitive St. Jude documents before being terminated in September 2014. That charge has since been dismissed.
Szweda has pleaded not guilty and hired Dworak, a Minneapolis attorney who last year secured a jury acquittal and $2.8 million settlement for a man who was charged with attempting to use deadly force on a Brooklyn Park police officer who had shot Dworak’s client in the back in 2014.
Dworak declined to comment on the case against Szweda, or the close collaboration he alleged between the Ramsey County prosecutors and St. Jude.
One exhibit in the case against Szweda includes an Aug. 31, 2015, e-mail from a county prosecutor to a St. Jude security official that says, “As promised, here’s a rough draft of the probable cause portion of the complaint. … I look forward to seeing you and the other SJM folks tomorrow.”
Lead prosecutor Tom Hatch declined to comment Friday.
St. Jude spokeswoman Candace Steele Flippin said it was true that company employees might be called to testify, and that the company has cooperated with requests from the Ramsey County attorney’s office and responded to a subpoena from Szweda.
“The Ramsey County Attorney’s office is prosecuting the case in question,” Steele Flippin wrote. “The company is not a party to this particular matter.”
In court filings, Szweda argued that the close collaboration between prosecutors and the company entitles him to more of St. Jude’s internal records than the company has provided, which he could potentially use in his defense. That includes St. Jude’s entire file on the internal investigation of Szweda that caused the company to approach law enforcement with its concerns.
Szweda’s legal filings cite the Sixth and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution as the legal authority for the request.
St. Jude argues that it has already provided all the relevant facts from its internal file to both sides. But some underlying documents remain protected from disclosure, including employee interview notes and memos written by the company attorney who led the internal investigation and provided legal advice about how to conduct the review.
“In the fall of 2014, when we had gathered enough information from the investigation to conclude that [Szweda] had embezzled funds from the company, St. Jude reported its findings to the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office,” St. Jude attorney Antone Melton-Meaux said in an affidavit in the case. “St. Jude did not disclose the notes and interview memos I prepared or those prepared by other employees working at my direction.”
Judge Starr has already dismissed two other pretrial motions from Szweda challenging the case. On Sept. 30 she denied motions to dismiss for lack of probable cause and for having a defective search warrant.