Wednesday, December 21, 2005
But what would a plea agreement with Abramoff mean for the government?
Clearly if there is a plea, the government will require cooperation as a component of the agreement.
But what would make this a particular stellar holiday gift for prosecutors would be the cooperator. It isn't every day that one has the potential testimony of a individual inside extensive political circles and one who is a former lobbyist - someone who might therefore be a strong witness should cases go to trial.
Prosecutors, in deciding whether to offer "deals" to cooperating witnesses, can consider several factors. Some may look at whether the individual will provide truthful and substantial information. Others may be more focused on the ability of the individual to convey the information to a jury should someone implicated by the testimony decide to proceed to trial. Defense attorneys cross-examining the cooperating witness are likely to suggest that the testimony provided is not truthful and that the person is testifying against their client in order to obtain a lesser sentence. A witness with access to details that can be substantiated with other evidence offers prosecutors a stronger case. And the more evidence prosecutors have in presenting a case, the more likely that the future defendants will enter into plea agreements as opposed to going to trial - thus saving cost and time and providing a more efficient process. And so the dominoes start falling.
So the questions here are: Will Abramoff be willing to plead guilty? What does he have to offer the government? Can what he has to say be substantiated? Is the information substantial? And the most important question -- who right now is particularly nervous when they read in the media that Abramoff may be talking about a possible plea?