Monday, October 1, 2007
Oscar Wyatt and the Oil for Food Program have certainly been a topic in the news (see here). But Wyatt wants to move on and has agreed to a plea that will allow him to do so. According to the media he is agreeing to a guilty plea to one count - conspiracy to commit wire fraud - that will mean he faces a sentence of 18 to 24 months and an 11 million dollar forfeiture. (See Wall St Jrl here, USA Today -AP- here). Interestingly this plea comes in the middle of his trial (see NYTimes here).
So why might someone plead guilty in the middle of trial? Here are some possibilities, although this is not to imply that one or any of these apply to this situation -
- Cost - The cost of going to trial can be enormous to someone accused of a crime. Ending the process certainly helps in reducing the cost.
- Risk - Going to trial is taking a risk. These days with the federal sentencing guidelines, the risk can be enormous. Having a plea provides certainty and usually a much lesser sentence absent a not guilty finding. Hearing the evidence and how that evidence is playing with a jury, may motivate one to avoid additional risk.
- Moving On - The toll taken psychologically, on someone accused of a crime, is enormous. Ending the process with a certainty allows for "life after" - which in white collar cases can be important, especially after an extremely long investigation.
- New Discovery - Unfortunately, not all prosecutors turn over discovery well in advance of trial. Receiving the discovery can provide a very good reason for wanting to plea, as one now sees the evidence the government has available.
- Jencks Material - By statute, the government does not have to turn over witnesses statements until after the witness testifies. Many prosecutors realize the value of turning over this material well in advance of trial. After all, if the accused sees the evidence against him or herself, there is more likely to be a quick plea. It certainly saves taxpayer money.