Deciding Whether to Accept a Plea or Go to Trial
A Tough Decision
The most difficult decision any defendant has to make is whether he or she should cut their losses and enter a plea of guilty. When you have the help of Art Leach this decision is made not in a moment, but over the course of time. Another difficult decision you will have to make is whether or not to cooperate with the government. By this stage you and Art Leach have a flexible game plan and know how you are going to succeed. Federal criminal prosecutions ebb and flow and being prepared for this will save hours of frustration.
Art Leach will zealously protect your constitutional rights and take your case all the way to trial and prosecutors know it. He will turn over every rock to get to the facts in your case and you will provide vital leads to areas of investigation and possible witnesses. It is important for you to know up front that fewer than 2% of federal criminal cases ever go to trial. But particularly in the white-collar arena there are exceptions, and each situation consists of a unique set of circumstances which will dictate the best strategy and course of action.
Early on prosecutors basically throw everything against the wall hoping something will stick to a defendant. This overcharging in the indictment many times becomes an untenable position and as the process moves along and challenges are brought to the government’s theories through the hard evidence garnered by your defense team prosecutors often soften their position about the alleged illegal activity and occasionally a deal can be worked out that both parties can live with.
At other junctures the government through negotiations may agree to drop the more significant charges for a plea to lesser charges. You must understand however that the dropped charges may, and most likely will be, used in determining any sentence which may be imposed. This is where Art Leach’s experience really counts because if the matter is not handled correctly you may not only be held accountable in terms of a prison sentence but there may be asset forfeiture, tax and restitution issues also tied into the equation. Additionally, your ability to pay the restitution must be placed before the judge because without specific directions in the sentence all of your assets could be in jeopardy even after the case is resolved.
Art Leach will make you aware of any offer from the government and explain it thoroughly to you – item by item. The government may want you to become a cooperating witness against others and in exchange may agree to propose to the judge a lesser sentence or other items in exchange for that cooperation. Both sides have to take their witnesses where they can be found and Art Leach’s experience in knowing which documents related to witnesses are important and ferreting them out can help give you the upper hand in any negotiations or trial.
Art will give you the brutally honest facts about what any cooperation or plea agreement entails. The decisions are ones only you can make. There are times when a plea deal is in the only realistic option and there are times prosecutors simply have too much time and money invested in an investigation to walk away with a plea deal.
It is important to note that if entered into, plea agreements are binding on the prosecution and defense; they are not binding on the judge. Federal judges may accept, reject, or modify any plea agreements. They are also constrained by the federal sentencing guidelines, forfeiture statutes, mandatory victim restitution laws and guidelines regarding fines and penalties and may not go below the minimum sentences imposed by those guidelines regardless of the stated wishes of prosecutors or defense attorneys.
While negotiating is an art unto itself, you need more than a skilled negotiator representing your interest. Thoroughly understanding the government’s evidence and the evidence that has been assembled in the defense investigation is also key to success. It is vital any attorney you work with has in-depth experience and understands the common threads that intertwine the indictment, the plea agreement, and any sentence that might be imposed. This is not a time for rose-colored glasses.
Art Leach will endeavor to set in stone safeguards within any written plea agreement which leave nothing to chance or open to a different interpretation. Specificity is the key. Words have meaning. If it’s not in writing it’s not part of the agreement. When an agreement has been hammered out it has to be presented to the court and having the right advocate there to express why the arrangement is legally correct and the right thing to do under your unique circumstances is what true advocacy is all about.
Art and his team will examine with you the entirety of the situation and outline your options. Art Leach will place you in the best position possible to negotiate from a position of strength and you can be assured any agreement reached during negotiations is the best possible considering your unique circumstances.
Going to Trial
You have rejected the prosecutions plea offer, plead not guilty and it is your day in court. The day of trial, excitement, freight, the unknown and always the unexpected. What happens during a jury trial? Jury trials are complex. Jury trials are nothing like portrayed on television. Your attorney must be prepared for the unexpected. The day of trial is never the same twice.
Art was one of the lead defense attorneys for former Health South founder and CEO Richard Scrushy in a securities fraud case which resulted in complete acquittal. Richard Scrushy, the founder and former CEO of HealthSouth Corp., was found not guilty in 2005 on all charges in the $2.7 billion accounting fraud at the hospital chain. Art has tried many cases to verdict with many acquittals. Art has also had great success vigorously defending cases to the point that the prosecution offers a deal that is acceptable to the client.
Art relishes going to trial and will eagerly recommend that to you if he believes it is in your best interest. Conversely, Art will not hesitate to tell you that the evidence is such that a trial will result in a bad result for you and you should consider resolving the case by a plea. You have the final word. If you decide to push forward to trial, Art will be thoroughly prepared and will be your zealous advocate and your voice in the courtroom.
Art will review what you will be facing should you forgo a plea agreement. Your sentencing exposure at trial, even if you are innocent, may or may not be significantly more than with an agreement. Nothing is a certainty – for good or ill- with a jury involved. With federal prosecution conviction rates above 95%, no attorney can guarantee you anything. What Art can guarantee you is that he will see you have all the information available to you before making these major, possibly life altering decisions.
Art is pleased to answer any questions regarding how he can assist you at any stage of a federal inquiry including plea bargaining.