Friday, August 31, 2012

More on Lawyers

     It is as though they wanted to seal my mouth shut with thick bands of duct tape.  I have a strict gag order from my lawyers.  Whatever I say could be twisted like long black cords of electrical wire into grotesque shapes that could then stand for me, they would be me in the minds of the federal prosecutors, and those government agents could hang bulbs on it, plug it in, and light up my effigy for all the world to see:  criminal, terrible person, nemesis of society.  
     My lawyers and I were seated in another one of those mahogany-stained conference rooms, with framed images of the scales of justice alongside halcyon north Florida landscapes.  We exchanged stories about what we had done over the summer, like schoolchildren, and then we were back at work.
     The lawyers cautioned me not give away what we talk about.  It doesn't matter that I have nothing to hide.  They were not happy about the article that was just published in the Gainesville Sun.
     "It made the federal government look bad," they told me.
     "How?" I asked.  "That wasn't my impression when I read the newspaper piece."
     "You said the government doesn't know anything about billing and coding."
     "It's true, isn't it?  Whatever they know has to come from specialists they hire to analyze data and report back to them."
     "It doesn't matter if it's true or not.  The government doesn't like negative publicity."
     "Neither do I," I countered, and my tone was acerbic.  "The raid and forfeitures didn't boost my public ratings."
     "We understand how you feel," they said.  "And we realize that your blog is a way of dealing with  distress," they said. "But can't you wait to change the world until after your case comes to a conclusion?"
     "That could be five more years," I said.
     "These cases don't usually go on that long."
     "It's already been two," I reminded them.
     "But things are going to move forward now," they insisted.
     "How do you know?" I asked.
     "There was a backlog for the prosecutors, they had other cases..."
     "No problem!  They did their damage, now they can sit on it...while I resuscitate my life--"
     "Wait," they interrupted with an equanimity only lawyers are able to sustain in the middle of a crisis.  (Physicians are too busy putting in central lines, injecting heart-rousing medicines, rushing to plaster electrodes over the chest wall to jolt a person back to the onerous world of the living.  We can't pretend to be calm.  We aren't calm, we're fighting against forces that drag people down into hell.)
     I must assume my lawyers are doing the same thing, fighting against hellish forces--in their suits and ties, no Betadine, no blood stains.  Do they have the tools to save lives like mine?  Do they know what they're doing?
     "Trust us," they said.  "We've been at this a long time.  We know how to proceed."
     "Okay," I agreed.  "What do you want from me?"
     "Try to keep a low profile," they said.  "At least where the federal government is concerned."
     "You mean I shouldn't say anything about what I think they're doing?"
     "More like...don't imply that they don't know what they're doing."
     "What are they doing?"
     "They're doing their jobs. You don't realize what kind of pressure they're under.  They have terrific demands from above.  They have to meet stringent standards.  There is lots of politics in the Department of Justice, and it trickles down.  Their jobs aren't easy."
     They were telling me to consider the FBI and prosecutors as suffering human beings.  Wow, I thought.  That's like feeling sorry for an alligator.
     Nevertheless, I realized how much easier it can be to battle imagined monsters than to look upon those who seem to be harming us as real people.  It's not so black and white.  I doubt if the federal agents want to harm me.  They just need someone.
     "Are you asking me to have compassion for them?"
     "Just give us a chance.  We see the big picture.  We know what we're doing.  Things are going to be all right."
     "You're sure?"
     "We're sure."

1 comment:

  1. Imagine what might happen if a DOJ prosecutor discovers that the information originally acted on had no real substance. Say that the search and seizure warrant was based upon an affidavit and now your witness changes her story or balks at taking the stand to testify. You’ve hired the best material experts in their field to carefully examine thousands of records and transactions. After careful analysis the experts report back to you that the confiscated evidence contains no irregularities; in fact, they are in full compliance and as good as any they’ve ever seen. Realizing that you have nothing to move forward on you instruct the lead FBI agent to keep the investigation open. You know from experience that time is usually on your side when you are in trouble in a case.

    If you were the agent, what could you do? You are now busy with caseload from other assignments. You have boxes stacked in a corner of your office that contain pending caseload. You are hopeful at this point that a key piece of evidence will turn up or a credible witness will call in another tip. After all, it’s hard to say not knowing. In lieu of something turning up, the course is set for the case to simply time itself out. You note on your calendar the date that the investigation must end and all evidence held must be released. You also note when you must request an extension to retain the funds seized. Unless something catches your attention, you’ll only call on potential witnesses once every quarter when another progress report is due. When asked for disclosure or comment you invoke your right to not reveal your investigative hand.

    Defense lawyers are cautious because they are looking for the best shot at a favorable outcome. Lawyers have learned to act with deliberation and thought through their many years of education, training, and experience. They enter into your case knowing absolutely nothing with regard to the circumstances surrounding your case.

    Lawyers are like a horse that stands at the water’s edge balking at your insistence that he plunge right in. Born without any depth perception the horse is hesitant to enter into water choosing instead to resist by moving back and forth on dry ground trying to get a glimpse of the bottom of an abyss. The horse is also studying the water for any sign of that saber-toothed tiger whose image is imprinted on his mind. His remembrances of his ancestors being attacked by tigers are strong as they are coded in his DNA. Only when he’s satisfied that the saber-tooth is not hiding in the water will the horse get in. Why don’t he just trust you? You’ve known all along that a saber-tooth tiger isn’t in there, silly horse. You had the pond emptied and cleaned of debris just last month so you know for a fact that there isn’t anything at all lurking in there. This is your relationship with your lawyer during the early days of your case.

    Your lawyer will look to you to bring them up to speed and provide any evidence that supports your side of the case. You have an obligation to aid your lawyer in your defense. The more confidence he has the better. But before your lawyer can defend you he must wait until the prosecutor leaves the investigative stage and indicts you. Like you, until that happens your lawyer cannot do anything other than follow the case. It is after the case morphs into the prosecution phase that the rules change. Only then can your lawyer file a motion for discovery and force the prosecutor to reveal his hand.

    My lawyer said, “Be patient, it is hard for a prosecutor to drop a case”. He’d say, “Bad things happen to good people”.