August 27, 2008
Abramoff - The Reward for Cooperation
In 2006, this blog gave Jack Abramoff The Collar for the Best Cooperating Witness, after all Abramoff caused many politicos to fall as a result of his inside knowledge and use of that knowledge in providing cooperation to the government. In 2007 this blog awarded Abramoff The Collar for the Best Skating Not on an Ice Rink (along with Andy Fastow). And although his cooperation has not always resulted in convictions for the government, (see here) it is clear that he has spent many an hour working with DOJ to unravel alleged improper conduct by government officials.
So it is no surprise to see an article in the Washington Post (AP) by Matt Apuzzo titled, Prosecutors Seek to Slash Abramoff Prison Term.
Cooperation provides benefits to the cooperator. But it also continues to raise serious questions such as:
- What about the individual who is the last one approached, and who has no one left to provide evidence against? Is it proper to deprive this individual of the enormous benefits associated with cooperation?
- And what about the individual who avails him or herself of the constitutional right to a jury trial - is there a penalty for proceeding to trial if the person is convicted?
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While prosecuting a conspiracy drug case, a defense counsel once accused me of more harshly treating his client because he was busy and could not ink a deal as timely as another defendant's counsel. First one in with an offer to drop a dime on another was our office's rule. It sometimes causes difficulties but a consistent approach that is known to the entire defense bar brings about consistent results. Everyone knows the rules to the game. It's not as if only one person read the bottom of the box and the rest of us are trying to catch up.
Posted by: Sam | Aug 28, 2008 5:33:33 AM
I prosecute white collar cases in state court. I guess I would share your concern if prosecutors automatically accepted the first cooperation agreement thrust their way by the first defendant. But I'm not sure that's always the case. It seems like I spend more of my time trying to determine whether a potential cooperating witness can be corroborated by evidence from other credible sources and whether I have a true picture of the witness' level of involvement or culpability. I have rejected several cooperation offers where we believe the potential cooperating witness wasn't being entirely candid or that witness' level of involvement was greater than we were led to believe. The bottom line, from a prosecution perspective, is that a jury will always punish the prosecution if jurors believe that the state is using a "big fish" to catch a "little fish." I've seen it happen too many times. Contrary to the popular belief, not all prosecutors are out there playing "Monte Hall" to move these cases along. It is also hard to ignore the societal benefits received from the level of Abramoff's cooperation. There is an increasing segment of our population that believes that there is no way to hold people involved in this type of activity accountable. Mr. Abramoff's cooperation gave the government and the people it serves a more complete view of the extent of the corruption involved. This is not a situation where Abramoff is emerging completely unscathed either. While it is true that these cases will never completely wipe away the type of corruption involved, the increased transparency of the situation should not be understated. Appreciated the opportunity share a few thoughts.
Posted by: Ken Robins | Sep 2, 2008 8:27:57 AM