Monday, June 27, 2011

Lessons from Blago's Case: Former Governor Rod Blagojevich Convicted on 17 Counts

[Photo from Wikipedia]
Today, various news reports indicate that former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was found guilty on 17 felony counts in federal court.  The charges include conspiracy, soliciting a bribe, and wire fraud.  The charges relate, among other things, to Blago's attempt to sell the U.S. Senate seat of former Senator Obama, after the latter became president.  Blago was also reportedly found not guilty on one count by the federal jury, which also could not agree on two other remaining counts.  Sentencing will be held at a later date. 

Here's my take on the verdict, as a former federal prosecutor and, currently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense attorney.  First of all, it appears that the federal prosecutors made a wise move by streamlining the case.  For instance, since the last trial, last year, which ended in a hung jury on most counts, the prosecution dismissed a number of counts, (including a complex RICO count), and made the criminal case much easier for the jury to digest.  No doubt the government also learned from their experience in the last trial about who made good, credible witnesses and who did not. 

Finally, it is interesting to note that, in the last trial, Blago elected not to testify and he clearly did much better than in this trial, in which he testified.  Some criminal lawyers believe a jury will often hold it against a defendant who elects not to testify.  However, perhaps this trial illustrates that each case is different and that, sometimes, it may be best for a defendant to elect to stay off the stand. 

What do you think about a defendant's decision not to testify?  Would you hold it against him or her for not testifying, even though the judge will instruct you not to do so?

Of course, perhaps another lesson to be learned from Blago's case is that, if you are a politician, you shouldn't try to solicit a bribe in exchange for a political favor!

What do you think about the result in the Blago case?  Is the problem of political corruption better or worse today than in the past?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Don Lepre, Fraud, and Lessons About Missing Court

[Photo from]
As a former federal prosecutor and, currently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer, I can tell you that one important lesson I have learned about criminal cases is that -- no matter what else happens -- you must always show up at court on time.  You must never keep a judge waiting! 

Well, according to news reports, Mr. Don Lepre, the so-called "King of Infomercials," has apparently never learned this lesson.  Lepre has reportedly now been arrested in Tempe, Arizona by U.S. Marhals after missing his arraignment, which was scheduled for earlier this week in Phoenix.  If he had appeared in court, Lepre had reportedly been expected to enter a not guilty plea to federal fraud charges.

The fraud charges, including conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering, reportedly revolve around Lepre's business, the "Greatest Vitamins in the World."  The indictment alleges, among other things, that numerous victims were promised money which they never received for selling vitamins.  Of course, Lepre has a right to enter a not guilty plea and a right to a jury trial.

But first, Lepre apparently must learn to show up at court!  And I am quite confident that a federal judge will now teach him this important lesson and ensure he shows up from now on!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Smug Mug Shot: The John Edwards Federal Case

[Photo from yahoo news]
Who is this man?  How can he actually smile for a mug shot?  What does John Edwards know that you and I don't know about his federal criminal case?  Here is my take!

As you may know, I am a former federal prosecutor, for over 20 years, here in the Southern District of Georgia.  Presently, I practice as a criminal defense lawyer in Augusta, Georgia with my oldest son.  I have tried some of the largest, most complex criminal cases in Georgia history.

As you may also know, fromer Senator John Edwards faces federal criminal charges in connection with his alleged use of presidential campaign funds to help conceal his relationship with his girl friend, Rielle Hunter, (and mother of his love child). 

I had predicted that Edwards would be indicted, but I never would have predicted the federal indictment would take so long to occur.  Nor would I have guessed that Edwards would flash his famous smile during his mug shots!

So, why might Edwards be smiling?  What does Edwards know that others don't know?

Here's my next prediction!  I predict that John Edwards stands a good chance of being acquitted by a federal jury on his alleged campaign violations.  Here is why:

As I have indicated before, in my experience, as a criminal lawyer, any time a criminal defendant can admit the act, but deny the intent, (or mens rea), he or she stands a decent chance at an acquittal.  That is generally the best defense in many criminal cases, in my opinion.  Also, in this case, the government appears to have, at best, a technical reporting kind of case.  In other words, no matter how you might feel about Edwards' infidelity while his poor wife was dying, in this criminal case, he is not charged with adultery.  He is primarily charged only with technical campaign reporting violations. 

In addition, a sound argument might be presented, in his trial defense, that the funds utilized (to help his girl friend), were not campaign donations at all.  Instead, it appears that the funds were merely a gift from a wealthy, elderly friend.  Finally, as another reason for my prediction here, I don't discount the fact that Edwards is a charmer--after all, he is a former successful trial lawyer and politician! 

So, no wonder John Edwards is smiling in his mug shot!  Whether you like it or not, he might be acquitted!  It will be interesting to see if he is still smiling, down the road, when the jury announces its verdict!  What do you think?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Movies About White Collar Crime: Psycho

[Photo from]
What are your favorite movies about white collar crime?  One of my favorites is the Alfred Hitchcock classic movie, Psycho, starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, as the infamous Norman Bates.  You might not have considered this horror classic to be a movie about white collar crime.  But, in one sense, the plot actually revolves around it.  You will recall that Ms. Leigh's character ended up at the Bates Motel after she had embezzled $40,000 in cash from her employer.  Of course, thereafter, what Norman Bates did to her was certainly not a white collar crime!
Again, what are some of your favorite movies which involve white collar crime? 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Federal Agents Raid Home Over Student Loan Default?

[Photo from]
What in the world are the feds up to in Stockton, California?  Various news reports indicate that, early yesterday morning, at about 6 a.m., federal agents, accompanied by a SWAT team, allegedly kicked in a front door and raided the Stockton, California home occupied by a father and his three kids.  The father, Kenneth Wright, reportedly told the news media that he was man-handled and handcuffed while in his underwear and that he and his kids were then held in the back of a police car for several hours while agents searched his home.  No doubt, the poor children were probably scared to death.

According to reports, the federal agents were reportedly looking for the man's estranged wife, (who was reportedly not at the home), and for evidence related to her alleged student loan default.  According to news reports, the agents conducting the raid, (which is NOT depicted in the above illustrative photo), were from the Department of Education, Office of Inspector General.  (Did you know that virtually every federal government agency has its own law enforcement wing, or component?)

Again, I ask, what in the world is going on here?  Doesn't this raid, along with the harsh manner in which it was apparently conducted, seem just a bit extreme?  This matter appears to be, at the least, a civil matter, and, at the  most, a non-violent white collar crime. 

Look, as you know, I am currently an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer.  But for over 20 years, I was a federal prosecutor.  In my opinion, as a former federal prosecutor who approved, or assisted agents with, numerous search warrants over the years, at this point, I submit this raid appears ill-conceived and half-baked.  In fairness, one can only hope that there are more (undisclosed) facts which would somehow justify this otherwise excessive police action.  What do you think?

But the U.S. Department of Education isn't "educating" the public yet about what happened, or why it happened.  Again, perhaps we will learn more facts, or some justification, later.  It will prove interesting to see what happens next.  In the meantime, please don't get behind on your student loan payments!

What do you think?  

Monday, June 6, 2011

A "D-Day" Tribute: June 6, 1944

[Photo from]
As you know, we are divorce lawyers in Augusta, Georgia. I am also a former federal (and state) prosecutor in Augusta. Currently, I am a divorce attorney and criminal defense attorney in Richmond and Columbia County, Georgia.

Maybe some of you assumed that the above caption, which refers to "D-Day," meant that this is "divorce day." Actually, most of you probably know that "D-Day" refers to that important date, June 6, 1944, during World War II, when the allies landed on the coast of Normandy, France in the largest amphibious invasion in world history.

My late father was one of many brave Americans who fought on that morning at Omaha Beach. He was a medic and a member of the fighting Seabees. One can only imagine the horrors which he and others experienced there, sixty-seven years ago today. On this date, and every day, I am very grateful and very proud of him and all the other brave young men who fought for our freedom. We must never forget their devotion and sacrifices for all of us.