College Admissions Case: Everybody Take a Chill Pill Please

The Internet is agog over the allegations in an indictment issued in Boston that parents and others were part of a far-flung ring to game the college admissions system so that wealthy families could get their kids into elite universities. From my office down here in gorgeous Atlanta (where Spring is just beginning) I urge everybody to calm down, take a deep breath, and let the system work before we start stringing the parents up by their thumbs.

For starters, in this and every other criminal defense case I have handled for the past 36 years, THE DEFENDANT IS PRESUMED TO BE INNOCENT!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please people, remember how it would feel if someone made accusations against you or your family.  There are merely allegations by prosecutors who have not had to have their theories tested by experienced criminal defense lawyers.  I cannot tell you how many times in my career a prosecutor or investigator told me or a Judge early on that the government had a “strong case” and had to eat those words later when the Judge and/or jury agreed with our defense and found the Defendant “Not Guilty.”

Second, the press, once again, is miserably failing in its obligation to realize that this is merely one side of the story.  One can look far and wide to try and find a story where some journalist casts a critical eye on all of the prosecution’s claims, which it bears repeating, have not been tested in court.

Third, this case may be the worst example yet of the increasing use of the “perp walk” in non-violent and high-profile arrests and prosecutions.  I am shocked and dismayed that some foolish supervisor in the Department of Justice said it was OK for armed federal agents to creep up to an actress’s home at dawn with weapons and handcuffs, all because the actress supposedly paid for an advantage for her child in the competitive college admissions process. TAKE A CHILL PILL, this is not a violent crime.

I’ll close my screed with a story of a somewhat similar case I handled two decades ago.  Prosecutors thought they had a “strong case.”  They got an indictment and arrest warrant for my client.  They notified the press, who like obedient school children trooped out to my client’s place of business so they could get video footage of him being brought out in handcuffs.  The story was prominently featured on the evening news, and my client and his family were mortified.  Fast forward 6 months to the final day of trial, a few minutes after the jury found my client “Not Guilty” of all charges. No reporters were present.  The prosecutors did not issue a press release to say that they had unfairly tarnished the reputation of an innocent man. Fortunately, one honest reporter agreed to do a story about the acquittal, and featured it on the evening news.  Again, everyone needs to calm down and let the system work. Oh yeah, the press needs to go back to school and re-learn the lesson that just because someone from the Government says something, that does not mean it is is a true statement.