In response to a dramatic surge in car thefts across New Jersey, State Attorney General Matt Platkin announced today that he is reversing a policy that prevented police officers from pursuing stolen cars. In late 2021, Platkin effected a statewide policy that prohibited police from chasing a stolen car unless they suspected it had been used [...]
The Department of Justice just announced charges against 21 individuals in a nationwide crackdown of COVID-19 related prosecutions that resulted in $150 million worth of fraud. The schemes were varied and involved medical doctors, medical labs, marketers and others in the healthcare field. For instance, two owners of a lab in California allegedly billed [...]
When someone pleads guilty or is convicted of a federal or state crime, there are serious collateral consequences, in addition to potential jail time, forfeiture, restitution and other fines and penalties. The term ‘‘collateral consequence’’ means a collateral sanction or a disqualification, a penalty, disability, or disadvantage that is imposed by law as a [...]
Recent statistics show that about 96% of the criminal cases in federal court are resolved through guilty pleas. The number of cases going to trial has dramatically decreased in the past ten years. Thus, today’s criminal defense attorneys must be adept at negotiating the best possible resolution for their clients that choose to plead guilty.
Much has been written about Paul Manafort’s conviction at his first trial, the potential decades long sentence, and his sudden plea and cooperation deal shortly before his second trial was scheduled to begin. This sequence of events alone is unusual as most defendants decide to cooperate in an effort to reduce their potential sentence well-prior to trial. Moreover, most federal prosecutors do not want to cooperate with a defendant who has contested charges, gone to trial and lost. Most unusual, and damaging to Manafort, is his apparent violation or beach of the cooperation agreement by his alleged lies to the government.
Rick Gates, Paul Manafort’s former business partner, is the star witness in the first trial resulting from the Special Counsel’s Russia collusion investigation in federal court in Virginia. Gates pled guilty to felony charges and agreed to testify against Manafort in an effort to receive a substantially reduced sentence. The government and defense agree on one thing – the cooperating defendant/witness is guilty of financial crimes, moral misdeeds and has lied repeatedly in the past. Despite that, Gates is on the witness stand, under oath testifying as a government witness in a highly publicized trial of great public interest.
President Trump tweeted that Michael Cohen, his former lawyer and “fixer”, won’t flip on him. Putting aside for the moment why the President would say this if Cohen didn’t have incriminating evidence against him - because one could only “flip” on someone if they did - let’s examine why people charged with crimes cooperate with law enforcement.
Just the other day, "Bridgegate" cooperator and former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official David Wildstein, was sentenced in federal court to probation. The two defendants that he cooperated against were sentenced to 24 months and 19 months in federal prison. Despite the fact that Wildstein pled guilty to two counts of conspiracy for his role in the offense, and faced several years in prison, the sentencing judge granted the government’s downward departure motion for a much more lenient sentence – in this case probation.
A plea agreement is the negotiated resolution of a criminal case between the government and the defense when the client decides to plead guilty rather than fighting the charges at trial. The benefit of a plea agreement is that the plea is usually to a lower offense or a limited number of charges rather than to the most severe charge(s). In most instances, a defendant is rewarded in some fashion for pleading guilty rather than going to trial.
Your client comes to you and says that he “wants his day in court,” he wants to fight the charges all the way and that he will never plead. You sit down and carefully review the facts of the case, the evidence known to date, the potential defenses, and eventually the potential penalties he faces. You then discuss what it will cost to defend the case, the amount of time and money it will take to thoroughly review the discovery, conduct your own investigation, research the issues involved, draft the motions, argue the motions, trial preparation and trial. The client sits there stunned. Having never before had to pay for anything more than a simple will, real estate closing or speeding ticket, the idea that the aggressive, full on defense that he wants and needs will cost tens of thousands of dollars for a typical state case, and perhaps hundreds of thousands for a federal case, is sobering.