The writer is a member of our White Collar Support Group that meets online on Zoom on Monday evenings. He was sentenced to serve over two years in Federal Prison for a white collar crime, and is scheduled to report next month. He sent me this blog and asked me to post it on prisonist.org. – Jeff Grant
Click here to read our article, “After Trauma: The Time for Spiritual Growth.”
Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc. is the world’s first ministry supporting the white collar criminal justice/economy exiled community. It hosts a White Collar Support Group online on Zoom every Monday at 7:00 pm ET, 6:00 pm CT, 5:00 pm MT, 4:00 pm PT, information here. We will be hosting our 200th consecutive weekly meeting online on Monday, April 13, 2020.
After almost two years of emotional distress the waiting was finally over. Sentencing day had arrived. Like anyone that has been arrested the initial shock and trauma is like a multi car wreck. The devastation and injuries (in this case emotional) affect more than just yourself. My wife, kids, family, business partners and friends on some level became part of the collateral damage of this unfortunate event. As I was leaving my home in handcuffs, I had my wife call my corporate attorney hoping he could suggest a lawyer who specialized in criminal defense. Finding the right lawyer is the most important step in the whole process as it will set the stage for receiving the best possible outcome. Unless you are a career criminal you will not have this type of attorney in your rolodex. Unfortunately, you are so traumatized that you don’t have time to investigate the best possible option for who you should retain. Great lawyers are like great doctors they both can be saviors when you pick the right one. Unfortunately, in an emergency you tend to react to the situation with desperation to provide immediate relief. I wish I had the good sense after making bail to take my time and explore my options regarding choice of attorney.
Once arrested and indicted you are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, I believe there is a concerted effort by law enforcement to place as much fear and pressure on you in order to gain an advantage at trial or in garnering an admission that leads to a guilty plea. Why else would you send a large contingent of FBI agents to someone’s home at 6:00am to arrest somebody with no prior criminal record?
Intimidation is one of the best tools at the government’s disposal. Even though you are presumed innocent until proven guilty it doesn’t stop the government from using the press to garner public support for their theories regardless of whether they are truthful or not. Here again the government takes liberty with their ability to destroy your reputation without fear of reprisal.
Now I do want to make clear that there was probable cause that supported some of the governments theories but there was plenty of factors that had I gone to trial may have placed reasonable doubt in a juror’s mind. The problem is that the decision I made to take a plea was based on factors not related to innocence or guilt. The greatest deterrent was my financial ability to pay my lawyers and the risk of a longer sentence if I lost at trial. At the time of plea negotiations, I had already spent $300,000 and would have needed to spend at least another $200,000 to get through trial. For the average citizen this is an impossible situation. My desire to go to trial to assert my constitutional rights became a financial decision as opposed to a reasoned one. How is this a fair process? Citizens are fighting against an adversary with unlimited resources at their disposal. It’s not a surprise that the government wins 97% of its cases through trial and plea agreements. By nature, I am a fighter and wanted to continue my fight but through poor decisions I had made that brought me to this point my lawyers felt there was a good chance I would lose at trial. An additional problem was my plea negotiations started so close to my trial date (due to a change in lawyers) that I lost any leverage I would have had if I started negotiations from the beginning. My first lawyers wanted to go to trial and told me it would cost an additional $350,000 but for what I believe was a money motivated decision didn’t think it was important to address a plea early in the process. To me this wound up hurting my chances of receiving probation instead of the 32-month sentence I received.
Once you accept a plea, you’re acceptance of responsibility usually includes admitting to things that the prosecutor insists on being included even if they are not factual. In my opinion this is designed for the purpose of convincing the Judge to issue the longest possible sentence to the defendant. When you can no longer defend what is being said you are at a major disadvantage as you seek leniency from the Judge. My lawyers told me that spending time arguing what they are saying only lessens the time they will have to show all the good things I had done in my life. It’s really an emotional juggling act. I spent so much time even after taking my plea showing my lawyers why the government was wrong about so much of what they claimed. It’s difficult to listen to lies and misrepresentations of the facts and not fight back but taking a plea took away whatever rights I had to show evidence that told a different story. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an option for pleading guilty with an explanation. The day of sentencing was traumatic to say the least. My lawyers did a great job of humanizing me and 20+ friends and family were there in the courtroom to support me. As usual the government had the upper hand and used it to say whatever they wanted to sway the judge. My lawyer, a well-known criminal defense attorney was brilliant in his portrayal of who I am as a person and I do believe with almost any other attorney it may have been a worse outcome. Having said that hearing 32 months as my sentence was definitely a shock. The only saving grace was that this phase of the process was finally over and I knew what my immediate future looked like. Or did I?
It’s been four and half weeks since my sentencing and I have yet to be designated to a prison camp. During this period the coronavirus has been the big story in the news adding further uncertainty to whether I will report as required on April 13th. My hope is that there will be a consensus by the Bureau of Prisons that will allow people like myself who are nonviolent offenders to be given home confinement until there is some clarity regarding the risks and proven methods for containing and treating the virus. As I have seen too often in this journey logic does not matter when dealing with our criminal justice system.
As I wait for my next step in this process, I will continue to proactively advocate for myself and hope that by sharing what I learn with others something good will come out of it. Hope, pray and take positive action is my new mantra.
Keep you posted….
Federal Bureau of Prisons Coronavirus Webpage: https://www.bop.gov/coronavirus/
Federal Bureau of Prisons COVID-19 Action Plan: https://www.bop.gov/resources/news/20200313_covid-19.jsp
Petition: HOME-CONFINEMENT TO LESSEN CAMPER’S EXPOSURE TO THE DEADLY COVID-19 VIRUS: http://chng.it/DF4JCGfh2b
Some Recent Articles About Prison and Coronavirus:
Prisonist.org: Scared White Collar Sh*tless: Reporting to Prison During the Coronavirus Pandemic, https://prisonist.org/scared-white-collar-shitless-reporting-to-prison-during-coronavirus-pandemic/
Prisonist.org: Coronavirus Updates from Prison, https://prisonist.org/white-collar-support-group-coronavirus-updates-from-prison/
Prisonist.org: 12 Things to Know When You Report to Prison During the Coronavirus Pandemic, From Inside a Federal Prison Camp, https://prisonist.org/white-collar-support-group-12-things-to-know-when-you-report-to-prison-from-inside-federal-prison-camp/
The Marshall Project: When Purell is Contraband, How Do You Contain Coronavirus? Handwashing and sanitizers may make people on the outside safer. But in prison it can be impossible to follow public health advice, https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/03/06/when-purell-is-contraband-how-do-you-contain-coronavirus
The Hill: ACLU calls on Justice Department, Bureau of Prisons to release inmates vulnerable to coronavirus, https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/public-global-health/488244-aclu-calls-on-justice-department-federal-bureau-of
The Crime Report: Huge Parole Caseloads Called Threat to Public Health in COVID-19 Pandemic, https://thecrimereport.org/2020/03/17/huge-parole-caseloads-threaten-public-health-in-covid-19-pandemic-warn-agency-chiefs/
NPR: Prisons And Jails Worry About Becoming Coronavirus ‘Incubators’, https://www.npr.org/2020/03/13/815002735/prisons-and-jails-worry-about-becoming-coronavirus-incubators
CT Mirror: To contain coronavirus, release people in prison. Do not let Covid-19 become Katrina in Connecticut, https://ctmirror.org/category/ct-viewpoints/joseph-gaylin-noora-reffat-and-arvind-venkataraman/
Business Insider: US jails and prisons are ‘fertile grounds for infectious disease’ and preventing the spread of coronavirus behind bars will be a challenge, say experts, https://www.businessinsider.com/experts-keeping-prisons-free-of-coronavirus-will-be-a-challenge-2020-3
Prison Policy Initiative: No need to wait for pandemics: The public health case for criminal justice reform, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2020/03/06/pandemic/
Government Executive: Federal Prison Employees and Others Question BOP’s Readiness for Coronavirus,https://www.govexec.com/management/2020/03/federal-prison-employees-and-others-question-bops-readiness-coronavirus/163692/
My Record Journal: State organizations seek prisoner release due to virus concerns, https://www.myrecordjournal.com/News/State/Organizations-seeking-release-of-prisoners-due-to-virus-concerns.html