Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Update with My Lawyers

     My lawyers and I get together every once in a while to remind ourselves that there's a "case."
     There is a case, right?
     It's just that every day seems like every other.  Kind of ordinary.
     As though I'm living a normal life.
    Gilbert sat to my right and Mark to my left and once again we seemed to be a threesome of leprechauns in the great big wood-paneled room lined with books.  The august realm of law does that to people--it's great, and powerful, and we're small.  But, like magical creatures, we can plot and wriggle our way out of the giants' trickery and corruption, and even have a little fun with the game.  Giants may be big, but they're stupid, and they bumble.
     For my lawyers, this is a puzzle.  How should they work it?  What clues can I offer?  When did something like this happen to someone else, and how did it get resolved?
     "I just can't believe how long this thing has gone on," Mark said, shaking his head.
     Gilbert nodded.
     "We both thought for sure something would happen by now...didn't we, Gil?"
     "Happen?"  I asked, looking back and forth at them.  "What do you mean, happen?"
     "We thought there'd be some movement on this case.  I mean, heck, it's been what...?  Two years?"
     "I've been under investigation for two and a half years," I reminded them.
     "And when was it, exactly, that your office got raided?"
     "One and a half years ago."
     "That's just unbelievable!"  Mark blurted out.
     "It sure is," said Gil.  "I haven't heard a peep from Corey--hard to fathom what he's thinking."
     "I know you said he's busy," Mark ventured.  "But come on.  Don't you think if Corey's guys had something, Gil, they would've brought it forward by now?"
     "You would think so," Gil said.
     I wonder if they're getting bored with my case, I thought.
     So I brought out the main question on my mind.
     "Couldn't we file something like a Writ of Habeas Corpus, only not to demand the reason for being imprisoned, but to request a review of the case, or a review by a higher court of Magistrate Judge Jones' decision to keep the affidavits closed, or something to get the case moving?" I asked.
     Mark scratched his chin.  "Maybe an interrogatory..." he suggested.  "What do you think, Gil?"  Would it help?  Or could it do some harm?"
     "Let's think about what it would accomplish," Gil said.  "I can't see how it would benefit us."
     "Maybe it's better to let the statutes run out," Mark suggested.
     "What do you mean?" I asked.
     "According to the law, there are statutes of limitations for every potential charge.  And the clock starts ticking on them the moment the supposed criminal act was committed."
     "How long are the time-frames?"
     "The average statute of limitations is five years," Mark said.  "So that could mean some of them are already running out.  Maybe we ought to just wait it out."
     "How many statutes are there?" I asked.
     "That depends on how many charges they're entertaining.
     "You mean...such as charges of conspiracy, or money laundering, or racketeering?"
     "Exactly," he said.
     "That's how many more can there possibly be?"
     "Oh, there could be hundreds," he said.
     "Hundreds?  They might have a list of hundreds of charges against me?"
     "That's pretty typical," he said.  "Remember, they're determined to find something, if they can."
     "What if they can't?" I asked.
     "I'm thinking that's what's going on," he answered.
     "If they had something," Gil stated firmly, "they would have moved quickly on it.  Otherwise it doesn't look good to Pam Marsh."
     "Who's Pam Marsh?"
     "Corey's boss.  Sooner or later she's going to say--'What's going on with the Colasante case?' and Corey will have to give her an answer."
     "Why should she care?"
     "They can't just sit on these cases forever.  They have to be accountable."
     "So, can prosecutors get in trouble for having lame cases?"
     "It doesn't look good," Gil said.  "But you have to understand, there are never any penalties for prosecutors and agents who misjudge cases."
     "It doesn't take a lot for a prosecutor to convince a judge to issue an affidavit for a raid, or bank forfeitures."
     "That's terrible," I said.  "Because it ruins people's lives--so they ought to have a lot of evidence."
     "They do need to have a lot of evidence, put together in an organized way, to get an indictment," he told me.
     What about the "ham sandwich," I wondered.  "It's so easy to get a grand jury to issue an indictment that you could get a ham sandwich indicted," the quip goes.
     "And they need to be able to convince a jury you're a criminal.  That's where they'll get stuck on your case, because there isn't anything."
     "But it takes almost nothing to get permission to raid an office."
     "No wonder they throw a big net over the country, and catch whatever fish they can," I said, somewhat resentfully.  "In medicine, we have to pay for misjudgments."
     Then Gil told me about a guy who was intercepted at the airport by federal agents who took him into custody for having $80,000 in cash on his person.  The fellow petitioned a lawyer to help get his money back, but the feds are holding onto it, even though they haven't said why.  That case is sealed, too--like mine.
     "What right do they have to take a guy's money, just because he has it?" I asked.
     "They want to know why he has it," Gil said.
     "But why should it be any of their business?"
     "They're suspicious."
     "But what grounds do they have for suspicion?  Did the guy have drugs?  Or guns?  Or was there some evidence of a plan to do harm to America?  Or clues that the money had been obtained illegally?"
     "No, none of that," said Gil.  "They don't need to prove anything, at least not until they issue an indictment."
     I turned to Mark, who used to be a state prosecutor who filed charges against doctors, and authorized raids.  He may be working for the other side now, but he knows how these guys think.
     "What would you do, Mark, if you were in Corey's place, and you realized--as he must--that he doesn't have a case, and can't even fabricate one?"
     "I know what I'd do..." he began.
     "I don't suppose it's possible for him, being a macho-policeman-lawyer type, to hand everything back to me and say, Sorry, I made a mistake."
     "Highly unlikely," Mark laughed, as though I had made a joke.
     "What, then?"
     "I'd turf the case as fast as I could to HHS, and let them handle it."
     "Yes, that's Medicare.  I'd let them take it on as a civil suit."
     "I don't want a civil suit," I said firmly.  "There isn't a civil suit.  Don't they have to prove something?"
     "They can usually find something, even if it's minor.  It allows everyone to save face."
     "But then I have to pay for trumped-up charges."
     "Believe me," Mark said.  "That would be an excellent outcome."
     "I don't want to pay for doing nothing wrong," I said.
     "Look," Gil interrupted.  "It sure beats federal charges, or an indictment."
     "That's like telling me I should be glad my plane wasn't hijacked, or my house blown up."
     "This is how things work," Mark said.  "Besides, there's a lot of horse trading that goes on at these things."
     "You can make deals, when the case has been reduced to something civil."
     "What about the interrogatory you mentioned, or a habeas corpus demand?"
     "We should probably leave things alone," Mark said.  "Don't you agree, Gil?"
     "Why rock the boat?" Gil answered.  "When nothing happens, that's good."
     "Wow," I said.  "That's crazy."
     "Remember, time is the defendant's friend." Mark looked at me squarely.  "I know it's difficult, but time is on your side.  These statutes may fizzle out, one by one."
     "Meanwhile," Gil nodded, "the prosecutor gets promoted, or goes into private practice, and everyone gets kind of bored, because your case is old.  Someone new may inherit it, and that's a hassle because who wants to pick up in the middle of a case?"
     "Let's leave it alone."
     "We don't need to irritate the prosecutor."
     "Maybe it will be forgotten."
     So, in a way, I paid for nothing at that lawyer meeting, because nothing was considered the best thing to do.


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