Federal authorities aggressively pursue federal criminal investigations and prosecutions against a class of person described as “celebrity” subjects. The term “celebrity” is misleading: it does not necessarily only apply to movie stars and rock stars. While the celebrity status certainly encompasses actual celebrities in the entertainment and sports industries, when it comes to Federal indictments, it also includes unsuspecting people such as police officers and other public safety officials, elected officials, business leaders, lawyers and high level government employees. Think about it; a federally indicted or criminally investigated public official, police officer or business leader receives as much, if not more press than a true celebrity and is great way for a federal investigator to fast track his career. My office regularly defends the criminal prosecution of police officers, correctional officers, registered nurses, and firefighters. Recent cases have shown that the reach of federal authorities is very broad.
Federal Criminal Investigations Often Strike the Unwary
Federal authorities often investigate subjects who are unlikely criminal defendants. Take for example Savannah Georgia lawyer Benjamin Eichholz. Eichholz is a prominent Georgia lawyer who is locally known for his television advertisements that hawk the phone number of “Win Win Win 1.” Eichholz found himself on the receiving end of a federal criminal investigation. Eichholz was representing labor clients in matters with the United States Department of Labor. In doing so, the Government accused Eichholz of making false and misleading statements to Department of Labor investigators and repeatedly transmitting false and misleading documents to them. Eichholz was communicating with the DOL on behalf of clients. Nevertheless, he came under investigation and was charged a 77-count indictment that included obstruction of justice and making false and misleading statements to DOL investigators. The Eichholz case illustrates the risk lawyers even take when communicating with federal investigators on behalf of their clients.
Another illustrative case is that of Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein. Rothstein was the architect of a 1.2 billion ponzie schemes, selling phony interests in settlements of employment and civil cases. Rothstein was also charged with taking monies from trust accounts and making unlawful campaign contributions to politicians. The fallout from the Rothstein investigation reached far and wide with the Government investigating many of Rothstein’s associates. The investigation even extended to Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderly. Federal investigators are looking into whether Chief Adderly committed some type of misconduct by flying to New York and attending a football game with Rothstein in December 2008. Investigators are also looking at whether Adderly personally intervened in an automobile accident involving a friend of Rothstein.
Allegations of unlawful campaign contributions created potential criminal exposure for other lawyers at Rothstein’s law firm. The feds are investigating approximately 30 lawyers in the firm along with 15 employees, spouses, and relatives regarding more than two million dollars in federal and state campaign contributions during the 2008 elections. The largest recipient of these campaign contributions was the 2008 presidential candidate and Arizona senator John McCain. The government is investigating whether the attorneys were aware they were violating campaign finance laws when Rothstein required the attorneys to make campaign donations as a condition of receiving bonuses.
Each of the subjects in Rothstein investigation will be faced with the difficult question of whether to give a statement or not. In the case of the attorneys at Rothstein’s law firm, the criminal penalties associated with giving false statements or obstruction of justice greatly exceed any criminal penalty that might be associated with an unlawful campaign contribution.
The Federal Criminal System
The Federal criminal justice system is a highly perilous arena. Any person facing a federal criminal investigation, Grand Jury proceeding or federal criminal charges should retain an expert lawyer that has significant experience with the federal system.
The Federal criminal system is in many ways like the State system but it has some very significant differences. One difference is that the United States Attorneys’ office is responsible for prosecuting the Federal charges. The U.S. Attorney has significantly more time and resources to focus on any given prosecution and they are not limited by budget constraints or staffing shortages. In fact, in most of our cases they appear to have virtually unlimited resources at their disposal.
In addition, Federal prosecutors have a great deal of latitude in selecting cases they wish to prosecute through Federal courts. The U.S. Attorneys’ office is a notoriously political office where celebrity cases are often prosecuted not in the “interest of justice” but in the “interest of my next promotion.” Federal criminal prosecutions tend to be more complicated both factually and legally. As a result, Federal criminal defense tends to involve cases which are more difficult to defend and the cost of defense is often very high.
Federal Criminal Investigations
If you are contacted by the FBI or other federal authorities in relations to a criminal investigation the first thing you must do is to determine if you are being contacted as a suspect or a potential witness. The second thing you must determine, whether you are a witness or a suspect, is whether you can make any statement to the investigators without potentially falling into a trap, such as being charged with lying to federal agents or obstruction of justice. Under any circumstances you need advice from skilled legal counsel to determine what, if any, a statement you can safely give the federal investigators. If the investigators deem have identified you as a suspect, it is highly risky for you to give any type of statement. Remember, federal investigators are often more interested in trapping you with a statement related charge (such as false statements or obstruction of justice) then they are in the underlying allegations because those charges will generally carry much greater penalties than the underlying allegations of misconduct.
Federal Judges Have Recently Criticized The Government For High Profile Prosecutions
In another case the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reversed the conviction of Gregory Reyes. In doing so, the Court fined prosecutors by stating “we do not tolerate a prosecutor asserting as a fact to the jury something known to be untrue or, at the very least, that the prosecution had a very strong reason to doubt…there is no reason to tolerate such conduct here.”
In cases throughout the country, including the high-profile pursuant to former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, judges have reprimanded prosecutors for deliberating failing to produce potential exculpatory information or otherwise manipulating the outcome of the case.
Recent judicial reprimands of government prosecutors are the result of an extremely aggressive prosecutorial policy of federal high-profile criminal defendants. Federal prosecutors have wide latitude in which cases they prosecute and the methods under which they prosecute the case. If you come under a criminal investigation, especially one conducted by Federal authorities, you owe it to yourself to be extremely careful.
Goyette & Associates, Inc., Aggressively Defend Federal Criminal Investigation and Prosecutions
We defend the rights of individuals and businesses. Professionals and businesses turn to us for the best advice, personal attention and our aggressive, tenacious commitment to protect our clients’ interests. Defending our clients’ rights requires creative proactive representation. Our clients are doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, business executives, entertainers, business owners—all individuals who demand and deserve the best.
Whether you have come under investigation, or actually been charged with a crime you need to act rapidly to protect yourself, your family, your business and your assets. Unlike State court criminal defendants, Federal criminal defendants usually have important careers and significant assets to protect. More than anything, our clients in this area want their lives and businesses to return to normal.