Here’s a really interesting story in the New York Times. It describes how federal prosecutors in multi-million dollar fraud cases against banks and Wall Street firms are allowing these cases to be resolved by deferred prosecution. What deferred prosecution means is that prosecutors clearly have enough evidence to proceed in a criminal case but allow the defendant to not plead guilty or go to trial so long as the defendant is on good behavior for a year or two and complies with certain conditions (perhaps paying some restitution and promising not to engage in similar conduct during the period of deferral).
As a criminal defense attorney, I’m all for deferred prosecution and have successfully gotten deferred prosecutions for some of my clients. But I have to say that is the exception, not the rule. What I find so interesting is that large corporate million dollar criminals are allowed off the hook while so many regular individuals are forced to accept criminal pleas or go to trial in minor cases.
On a related subject, I was in court this morning and one of the judges was expressing great irritation and exasperation to me regarding the behavior of corporate “victims” in petty theft cases. Here’s what happens: Someone gets arrested at a big store for petty theft, (and to be fair about it, the arrest is usually for good reason and the arrestee is usually guilty). In any event, the store has a contract with an out-of-state law firm that sends the arrested person a letter demanding $350 to $500 for “reimbursement of security expenditures.” The judge was upset because the judge recognized that this is a pure money grab from people who are uninformed about the law. No one is obligated to pay these fees, the law firms and corporations know this, and they have not once attempted to collect these fees in court.
How about some deferred prosecution and legal and intellectual honesty for the rest of us.