As many know, I am a criminal defense lawyer in Atlanta Georgia who handles federal criminal cases here and all over the United States (I’m currently working on federal cases in Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, the Middle and Southern Districts of Georgia, and out in Texas and Arkansas). Many of my clients are accused of what are sometimes called “white collar” or “economic” crimes. No matter what name we give such cases, they are almost always charged under one of the federal laws that outlaw fraudulent conduct.
Many people contact us because they are fearful that they might go to a federal prison for one of these fraud-type cases. A case I recently finished included some of the arguments that help such clients avoid a jail sentence in a federal fraud prosecution.
My client was married to one of the other people charged in a large federal fraud prosecution. Her spouse was a former law enforcement official who convinced his wife and others to get involved in a certain business proposition. As you likely guessed already, that business proposition was based on false and untrue (meaning fraudulent) statements in loan applications sent to various banks.
The prosecution made a big deal about her husband’s law enforcement status. The Judge imposed a lengthy jail sentence on the husband.
When we prepared to go to the sentencing hearing for the wife, we rounded up our best arguments. First, we noted that there were others who had trusted the husband based on his law enforcement status, yet these others had not been charged with crimes. These other uncharged people also knew that the bank applications contained untrue information, yet the Government let them go without being charged. So, our first argument was that a spouse should be given at least the same amount of credit when she simply following the lead of her husband into a business venture. Second, we focused on my client’s family obligations. Without revealing confidential information in this blog post, it made a big impact when we explained to the Judge what would happen with the family if the wife was incarcerated. Third, I did my best to maintain good relations with both the Prosecutor and the Probation Officer. While they are my opponents and I often do not agree with them, maintaining good relations can help in a close case. Here, it did help, for the Prosecutor did not really put up much of a fight when we asked the Judge to figure out a way to avoid sending my client to a prison. Furthermore, the Probation Officer was the one who came up with the suggestion as to the method that could allow the Judge to impose a sentence that did not contain any further time in custody. Fourth, my client decided to trust me and the strategy I had mapped out.
The Fifth and final factor is more difficult to describe, but might be the most important. I knew this Judge very well from having appeared before him many times. I have also been on professional programs with this Judge, and had the chance to talk with him about non-lawyer issues. I have a fairly good idea of what arguments work, and those which won’t work. Knowing the Judge can sometimes be a tremendous help when crafting the best argument in trying to keep a client out of prison.
All of these factors came together in this recent case. The Judge said he was going to do something he never does, and he gave my client a sentence that kept her at home with her family. As you can imagine, she is very relieved.
Every case is different. Nevertheless, when trying to avoid a prison sentence in a federal fraud case, it is so important that the attorney map out a multi-pronged strategy when trying to help the client avoid jail. This recent case was gratifying not only because my client avoided prison, it also made me feel good that our strategy was the proper course to take.