The Crushing Reality Of Going To Trial – And Then To Prison
[Reporter’s Note: I had an opportunity to discuss the status of the U.S. v. Raniere Et AL case with a colleague who has been following it from the beginning – and who, more importantly, has a good deal of experience in dealing with high-profile criminal cases. I asked him what he would say to the defendants if he had an opportunity to address them at this point in time. Here is what he told me:]
What they need to understand is that the question they are facing is whether they want to have some control over their fate or whether they are prepared to do a very long-stretch of unimaginably hard time.
They have been charged with serious crimes, the EDNY has a 97% conviction rate, and once the jury has returned the verdicts, all the tears and remorse in the world at their sentencing hearings will have absolutely zero impact on the judge.
Tears and remorse and the prospect of leniency are for people who plead guilty.
There is no leniency after a jury conviction, which will be for more serious crimes than they could have pled to – and the sentencing recommendation for each one who is convicted will very likely list multiple aggravating factors and no mitigating factors.
Those sentencing recommendations will likely recount a lot of the hurt and damage these people have caused – and several other criminal acts that they were not convicted of but are connected to – because those are entirely appropriate things for the judge to consider in imposing sentences.
The sentences will be harsh.
A lot of people think they can do prison time because the horrors of prison life are abstract to them.
Once they’re in prison, most of them will spend their days thinking about what they could have done differently – and wishing they had done so. And they will all come to the crushing realization that there is a huge difference between a couple of years in prison and a decade or two.
Those who don’t plead will learn that there are no do-overs, no turning back.
Some will waste their time pursuing meritless appeals. None of those will be granted.
The crimes they’ve been charged with are horrifying and scandalous.
Even the racketeering charges are problematic because for the jurors who will be hearing the case, those charges translate into things like organized crime, gangsters, thugs, and other people who do not have a place in civilized society.
The defendants will go to prison and endure year-after-year-after-year of misery, indignity, and suffering.
Later, they will come out wrinkled and gray, hollow shells, pariahs in society, with no friends to greet them, and with family members who may open their arms but who will never be comfortable with them around.
When there is human carnage – as there is here – society is not forgiving, and redemption is near impossible to earn.
On the first day of opening arguments, their lives will already be over. A 97% conviction rate at trial. That’s what should be on their minds. Only the most reckless gambler would bet against those odds.
Their lawyers literally have nothing to lose. They are being paid well, they are gaining fame, and even the greatest criminal defense lawyers have a lot more clients who go to prison than go free.
Regardless of where their loyalties truly lie, their lawyers will always get to go home at night, and they will invariably sleep well regardless of the outcome for their clients.
There is very little downside to any of them taking their clients to trial.
Maybe the trust runs out of money and they aren’t fully compensated for their work, but they still will be rewarded.
A jury trial will elevate their profiles that much higher, that much longer, because it will be one of the most covered trials in years. This is like show biz to them, as Agnifilo amply demonstrates every day he’s in court – and just as in show biz, for them, there is no such thing as bad publicity.
If Clare or Lauren or Allison is sentenced to ten years, their lawyers will take full credit for it not having been twenty. They’ll spin it as a “Win” no matter what the outcome is.
And new clients will line up at their doors.
It is literally a “Win-Win” situation for the defense attorneys.
The only people who stand to lose are the defendants: they know what they’ve done, we know what they’ve done, the jurors will clearly understand what they’ve done, and the whole world will soon know the same.
The only question is how badly they will lose.
Yet, even at this late date – with just two months to go before the start of the trial – there is still time for at least some of the defendants to limit the damage they will incur. First to flip is still the winningest bet, but second, third and fourth have plenty to gain as well.
The biggest question now is what impact a superseding indictment may have on the case.
Surely, some of the defendants will likely face additional charges – which will make their level of risk that much greater.
But for others, it may actually present a better opportunity in terms of damage control because there will be that many more charges to bargain down from, more potential lesser charges, or even lesser included charges, to plead to.
Assuming the prosecution is willing.
Trials are expensive and grueling – which is why prosecutors often prefer plea deals.
But the closer it gets to the trial date, the more prepared the prosecution will be to put on its case – and the more committed it will become to actually trying the case.
For at least some of the defendants, there will soon be a point of no return, a point at which their brinksmanship has made a plea deal impossible.
Yes, trials are expensive, but as compared to the defendants, the United States has virtually unlimited resources – and the prosecution’s trial team will have all the resources of the Department of Justice at its disposal.
The five AUSAs currently on trial team are the public-facing tip of an iceberg. There are lots more people who will be toiling night and day behind the scenes to assist them in this case.
Not even Clare can match that.
I believe my colleague has done an excellent job of summarizing where things are right now for the defendants in the case of U.S. v. Raniere Et Al – and where they’re going to end up.
Raniere has always enjoyed the advantage of being able to hire top-notch lawyers, buy-off politicians and local law enforcement officials, and keep hammering away at his opponents until they run out of money or simply become exhausted from the non-stop litigation.
In truth, he has only ever been in one fair fight in his entire life – and that was when a group of State Attorneys General took down him and his Consumers Buyline scheme.
There is no chance that Raniere will ever accept any plea deal because his ego will simply never let him admit that he should be subjected to the same laws as other people.
Unfortunately, all the other defendants will most likely stand by his side – and choose to go to trial with him.
The only “good news” in this sad mess is that they will all have plenty of time to think about the numerous ways they could have avoided their bleak futures.
The road not taken…