Anyone facing a federal sentencing knows how difficult and daunting the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines can be for many types of crimes. For financial crimes, the amount of loss, number of victims, complexity of the scheme and the like can quickly ratchet someone with no prior offenses into the 10+ year range. With a system that does not allow for early release on parole, like most states, and that credits a defendant with only 54 days a year good time credit, sentencing in the federal system can be particularly harsh.
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.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) operates from its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and has 11 regional offices. It’s Division of Enforcement investigates cases and recommends to the Commission cases to be brought against individuals and entities. Investigations can begin through whistleblowers, news articles, referrals from other agencies, complaints from the public or data derived from market surveillance.
A federal or state agent or detective knocks on your door at 6 a.m. and serves you with a grand jury subpoena for documents and/or testimony. Do you simply gather the documents requested and send them to the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the County Prosecutor’s Office, or do you retain experienced criminal defense counsel? If the subpoena requires testimony, what rights do you have?
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.
While most people would say that you should retain a criminal defense lawyer once you are charged with a state or federal crime, the answer is not that straightforward. In many instances, an individual or company will learn that there is an active, pending investigation into their activities. They might be contacted by law enforcement for an interview; they might be served with a grand jury subpoena for documents and/or testimony; they might learn that business associates and customers have been interviewed by law enforcement; they might receive a “target letter” from the U.S. Attorney’s Office; or they might be tipped off by their friendly banker that their financial records have been subpoenaed.
Much has been written and tweeted about this past week concerning this topic. Politics aside for the moment, what does the government need to demonstrate to a court that a place should be searched, or a person’s phone calls should be intercepted?
Facing serious criminal charges, or being told that you are a subject or target of a criminal investigation, can be extremely stressful and unnerving. It is common to feel overwhelmed and uncertain what to ask in your consultation with a criminal defense attorney. Below are some of the major questions a prospective client should ask the attorney.
I’ve posted before about the line of case following United States v. Trujllo-Alvarez, 900 F. Supp. 2d 1167 (D.Or. 2012), which held that ICE could not detain and attempt to remove a non-citizen defendant charged with the federal crime of illegal re-entry, once the defendant has been released under the Bail Reform Act. Trujillo and its progeny affirm that when the Executive Branch decides that it will defer removal and deportation in favor of first proceeding with a federal criminal prosecution, it is obligated to follow all applicable laws governing such prosecution, including, of course, the Bail Reform Act. Once the Secretary of Homeland Security opts for prosecution over deportation, and invokes the jurisdiction of the district court, that court has priority, and administrative deportation proceedings stall until and unless the criminal prosecution concludes or is dismissed. United States v. Blas, Crim. Action No. 13-378, 2013 WL 5317228, at *3 (S.D. Ala. Sept. 20, 2013). In United States v. Galitsa, 17 Cr. 324 (VEC), Judge Caproni followed the Trujillo-Alvarez reasoning, as did Judge Irizzary in United States v. Rosario Ventura, 17-cr-418, in the Eastern District of New York, holding that the Government must either release the defendant under the bond conditions set in the matter and proceed with prosecution, or dismiss the indictment and proceed with removal.
Press reports of late have revealed that former Army Lieutenant-General and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former Trump Foreign Policy Advisor George Papadopoulos pled guilty to making false statements to government agents. Federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1001, prohibits a person “in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch” of the federal government from “knowingly and willfully” (1) falsifying, concealing or covering up “by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;” (2) making any materially “false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation;” or (3) making or using “any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry …”.