One moment you are charged and very soon after comes the first plea deal.
Simply, the prosecutor offers a guilty plea in return for a reduction of the severity of the charges, dismissal of charges and recommendations from the prosecutor regarding sentencing for the defendant or some other concession. What part of the crime can be diminished or forgiven to forego a trial seems to be the question? It feels like I am from a different world when I say that if there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, I don’t want to just let someone get away with a lesser offense or to let it go. I want accountability to those people that commit crimes, but this is our reality. Statistics support that 98% of people take a plea deal. People with little education, resources, and the insistence by their defense attorneys succumb to a plea deal nearly always.
There were five people on the Fund committee plus the owner of the broker-dealer that were all considered part of the Fund. We all worked together but were charged with different crimes, except Brent and I.
Stan was the owner of the broker-dealer that sponsored the Fund. Stan had been investigated or charged with many crimes with various companies and personal matters over years. I was told by Stan’s attorneys that Stan had crossed the wrong people but had done nothing illegal. I was given information that Stan had been a whistleblower. The Government was having a difficult time convincing Stan to plead guilty. The statute of limitations for certain potential charges, like the Fund, was fast approaching. Certainly, having more people pleading guilty and prepared to testify against Stan would bolster the Government’s case and put increasing pressure on Stan.
Scott was a salesman in Texas and had an immunity deal. John was a salesman in Texas and was charged with a crime with an unrelated company when he worked with Stan. John pled out. Brent and I were charged and plead not guilty. Brent was the attorney and I was the administrator. Tom was the CPA for the Fund and pled guilty before charges were formally handed down. Tom was an older gentleman that knew he didn’t have the stamina to deal with the Government. Tom often mentioned he “desperately wanted to be innocent”. I wasn’t sure how to take that.
Tom, John, and Scott took deals very quickly. I have heard that the sooner you “get on the bus”, the better the defendant’s deal. To me, a plea deal should represent taking responsibility and the truth, not how quickly you start cooperating. Interestingly, many of the same five Fund Committee members and Stan had been named in investor’s civil arbitration and all the Fund Committee members and Stan were successful. All claims by the investors were denied or dismissed. On all the paperwork signed by the investors, there are significant risk disclosures throughout, even one that states that you can only rely on what was written in the document, not what you might have been told by anyone. A civil suit’s threshold of culpability is much lower, a preponderance of the evidence versus a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt. What a predicament. The same Fund Committee members defending themselves that they had the authority to make investments in an investors’ civil suits were claiming the opposite in the criminal case.
This is the building I was a trust advisor in during the criminal case.
At this point in the case, I was “on”. I was working harder than ever because nobody cared about the case more than I did. There were times that I got up at 3 am and went down to Dan’s office (he gave me a key to a workroom in the building.) and I would work on the case until I had to go to work across the street at the bank trust department at 8 am. There wasn’t a spare moment of the day that I wasn’t doing something regarding the case. I had to convince the Government that I was not who they thought I was.
The dilemma that I had was that I could present a mountain of credible information and if the Government didn’t want to listen and be open to what I had to say, I would still be charged with a crime I didn’t commit. Some things, there was just no way to 100% prove. I would likely be going to trial.
What did change was my confidence. I was completely fearful of everything that I knew the Government could do to me. I felt everything deeply – reading the transcripts, the emails from my attorney, Government letters in the mail, the voicemails, the evidence, going to the hearings, the plea deals, the soulful moments with Dan when he walked the fine line of telling me what was likely going to happen. I just wasn’t going to let them tell me who I was when I knew better. It was one of the most powerful feelings I have ever experienced. No one gets to define me, but me.
You want to really believe people in your community are great. Most of us rarely have a reason to test our community and yet, life presents tough times and you see who shows up. Who are the people that initiate a call, a card, stop by or just make an effort to make you feel like “we got you”.
I knew there would be days, terrible days or even moments when everything the Government was doing or saying to me would crush me like a bug. The weight would just be too much at that very time. It had already happened a number of times and there was no doubt, there was more to come.
I had always been rather independent, but this was way out of my league. I thought hard about the things and people that could prop me back up when things got tough. Scrape me off the floor and help me fight the good fight. Honestly, I think there were times when people close to me vacillated as to who they knew me to be. If I talked with one of them when they might be unsure about me, that could be devastating. I had to know who was unwavering.
There were two people, my Aunt and Brad that seemed to be unwavering. They understood how I had to stand on the truth. Interestingly, there was never a conversation about it. They just seemed to know that it’s what I had to do. No discussions. No “what ifs”. No Plan B’s. They were strong enough to say the right thing on the days where it felt like my grit was running low. They appeared fearless enough to stand by me no matter what. Truly, their fearlessness gave me strength and I was so grateful.
My Dad had died just a few years prior to the charges and I missed him so much. He would have known what to do. My Aunt was like his spokesperson and told me more than once that my Dad never ran away from the truth. Brad was a long time friend that was going through his own legal difficulties, not a criminal case, but nonetheless, he and I learned how to stand up for ourselves on a whole new level.
How much do you have to trust the people you work with?