Judge: Fainting Is Not Proof of Guilt

NEW YORK -

Jurors cannot be told that a former hedge fund portfolio manager fainted when federal agents first confronted him over insider trading allegations, a judge ruled Monday, saying such a “shocking and highly disturbing” encounter could dramatically affect someone regardless of guilt or innocence.

Mathew Martoma’s trial begins Tuesday when prospective jurors fill out questionnaires. He is charged with persuading a medical professor to leak secret data from an Alzheimer’s disease trial when he worked at SAC Capital Advisors. Prosecutors say the information enabled SAC to earn a quarter-billion dollars illegally. Martoma fainted when FBI agents approached him outside his Boca Raton, Fla., home in 2011, a year before he was arrested. But the judge said that “It is just as likely that he fainted simply from shock, surprise or alarm at being accused of such a serious crime, which could have such a damaging effect on his professional and personal life.”