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Reflections on the elusive federal trial

You have probably heard that in federal court, no one accused of a crime ever goes to trial. Conviction rates are very high in federal court, which is of no surprise because federal prosecutors have the luxury of picking which cases they wish to pursue.

With that in mind, even when the prosecutor has a strong case against a federal defendant, it may still be worth it for the accused to go to trial. Some trials actually serve as prolonged sentencing hearings and benefit the accused even if they are convicted. I just finished a 3 week, 670 exhibit mortgage fraud trial in federal court. My client was convicted but the judge now sees him as a participant in the fraud and not the Svengali, which is how the Government presented him.

When a client pleads guilty, they plead out to the Government’s narrative. Judges are very reluctant to credit a counter-narrative at a sentencing hearing when there is a plea. While the accused receives some benefit for pleading guilty when sentenced, it is not worth it if the prosecution’s narrative increases the accused’s culpability.

While I normally don’t consider it a victory when my client is found guilty, in this case it was a win. The truth about my client’s degree of involvement was revealed, despite a large group of well-coordinated cooperating witnesses determined to pin it all on him.

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