I made a huge mistake. Don’t make the same mistakes I made – Hire a criminal justice or prison consultant immediately if you think you are in any kind of legal trouble.
I went through a well-publicized battle with the U.S. government that resulted in me exhausted, beaten down, suicidal, literally insane, and after ten years of relentless non-stop harassment by an overzealous prosecutor, I finally, reluctantly, on the advice and prodding by my lawyers, agreed to a guilty plea of one count of wire fraud. During these ten years of fighting with the U.S. government I made many, many mistakes, but the biggest of all of them was not hiring a prison consultant on day one to guide me through the inequities and corruption of the U.S. criminal “justice” system.
A real qualified prison consultant (preferably an attorney) has: A strong legal background, good relationships with numerous criminal defense attorneys, a through understanding of every aspect of the American criminal justice system, been to prison and understands every aspect of prison life and all the steps before and after prison, a thorough understanding of how state, local and federal prison administrations work, and finally, has the time to spend on your case and be there for you every step of the way from indictment through probation through post prison life. Please note that there are a zillion frauds out there peddling themselves as prison consultants and I even, to my dismay, mistakenly hired and wasted my money on one of them. Please don’t make that mistake and hire someone who will have your best interests in mind.
My particular story is complex, but unfortunately, not uncommon. In 2008 I was contacted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as they had a complaint from a disgruntled ex-employee relating to one of the Hedge Funds (BayStar Capital) that I managed. Mistakenly, I was not worried as it is endemic in the hedge fund industry to be contacted by the SEC and I had been contacted numerous times in the past. Other than being very time consuming, and very expensive (legal fees), none of my past interactions with the SEC ended up with any results other than a pain in the butt. This time was different though. I had embarked on a trading strategy called PIPES (Private Investment in Public Equities), in which I was very publicly at the forefront. It was a complex strategy in which you purchased a long convertible bond in a publicly traded company and simultaneously shorted the companies underlying common stock. It was perfectly legal, and I had many, many wall street law firms review what I was doing and give me the OK, but the SEC didn’t understand the strategy and the SEC believes everything they do not understand must be illegal.
So, from 2008 to 2010 the SEC investigated my hedge fund with an army of their lawyers and subpoenaed literally millions of documents costing me millions of dollars in legal and document production fees. At the time, what I didn’t fully understand, is that once the SEC sinks this much money and time into a case they can not politically afford not to come up with something that they can advertise to the public showing the politicos that fund them that they are doing their job in order to justify their existence. This is the moment I should have hired a prison consultant. Had I done so I would have had someone to guide me through the process from the beginning and I could have avoided so many mistakes I therein went on to make.
Like so many potential defendants and/or actual defendants, I had the belief that my attorneys were looking out for my best interests and had the situation in hand. Boy was I wrong. First, the biggest concern of most (not all) attorneys is to get paid.
Second, in order to keep up billable hours and make as much money as possible, attorneys need as many clients as possible, which means they can only devote so much time to each client in order to keep their billing machine running.
Third, lawyers have a huge built in conflict of interest that no one talks about. They are always up against the same judges and prosecutors and, at the detrimental expense of their client, they do not want to piss off these people as they want to be in their good favor for the next case. It’s an amazing conflict of interest to watch and you have to be in the middle of it to understand just how much this conflict affects their judgement and actions.
Lastly and most importantly, although good criminal defense attorneys know criminal law and criminal procedure, unbelievably, they know almost nothing about the mindset and pressures of being a defendant. They know even less about what it is like to be indicted, how pre-trial supervision works, what jail and/or prison is like and the rules of jail and/or prison, how important a pre-sentencing report is and how to prepare for it, how halfway houses work, how home confinement works, what probation is like and how it works, and how to deal with life as a felon post probation in the United States. Thus, as I unfortunately found out, my plethora of highly paid, and very expensive, criminal defense attorneys understood almost zero about the preponderance of what I was going through and the things I really needed to understand, prepare for and take care of.
So when the SEC turned my case over to the U.S. Attorney’s office after two years for criminal prosecution of one count of wire fraud, I mistakenly believed that my attorneys had the matter well in hand and that, since I was innocent, there was nothing bad that could come of the investigation other than enormous legal bills. Unfortunately for me, those enormous legal bills were combined with hours of wasted time, very bad publicity, and the ruining of my business every time the prosecution put out a very damaging press release of their completely unproven allegations. As it turned out, my attorneys, although experts in criminal law and criminal procedure, had zero time or expertise to deal with the plethora of issues that I was confronted with on a daily basis.
There are so many examples of the services my lawyers could not, or did not want to, provide but to name a few:
- They had no understanding of the power of the government to put out press releases and gave me no warning of how powerful the government could be in using the press and internet to try me in the court of public opinion prior to me even having a day in court. According to the government’s press releases, I was guilty before there was even a case brought, and my attorneys were clueless that there would even be a public relations battle, never mind how to fight it.
- Although I was never arrested or indicted, what is legally called an “Information” was filed against me and once any of these things happen you must be “processed” and assigned to what is called a Pre-Trial Officer. My attorneys did not warn me of any of this and they understood very little to nothing of the pre-trial system. Once in pre-trial, you must surrender your passport, in my case my assets were frozen, and there are tremendous restrictions put on where you can travel. For me, I was not allowed to travel outside of the northern district of California. Now remember, I ran an international business and I hadn’t been found guilty of anything, yet I was now subject to rules that were crumbling my business and freezing my assets. My lawyers explained to me that dealing with pre-trial supervision and rules was not “within their mandate” and thus left me on my own to deal with irrationality of the U.S. pre-trial system. Many years later I found that there were many things that could have been done to unfreeze my cash so I had money to live on, and to severely loosen my pre-trial restrictions so that I could continue to effectively run my business.
- They had no idea how the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) worked, nor how prisons worked, and when I was mistakenly put in a prison I had no business being in, they did nothing to prepare me for prison or help me change my prison designation.
- They didn’t understand how halfway houses, home confinement or parole worked and had me agree to parole and probation provisions that I never would have agreed to if I had understood the implications of what I was agreeing to.
- While pressuring me to plea to a felony conviction of one count of wire fraud, they never explained to me how serious having a felony conviction is in America and how you will forever lose many of your civil rights by having a felony conviction.
Although the above laundry list of critical issues that my attorneys either completely missed, did not or could not explain to me, or did not feel it was in their mandate to do so, might seem exhaustive, it is just the tip of the iceberg of ways my expensive attorneys were unable to help me or prepare me for what being arrested or indicted in America on a felony charge really means for a defendant. Therefore, I learned so many lessons and made so many mistakes that could have been avoided if I simply understood that I needed a prison consultant. A criminal justice or prison consultant could have, in effect, “held my hand”, guided me, and prepared me from start to finish through the inequities of the American judicial system and helped me fix all the things that my attorneys were not prepared for, did not have time to manage, or were not equipped to deal with.
Attorneys have never been to prison. Unless you have been in prison you have no idea what it is like. Attorneys have never been through the pre-trial, halfway house, home confinement and parole and probation systems. They ever never been in jail, been beaten up, been extorted and been subject to the capricious sadism of prison guards. They have never been put into the “hole” or solitary confinement. They don’t know what it’s like to have zero medical care or access to medications one desperately needs to live, or even how hard it is to get a pair of reading glasses so you can read. They don’t know how prison gangs work or the multitude of rules within the prison gang system. They literally have no idea how any of those things work. I found my attorneys literally making up things about prison, pre-trial, halfway houses and probation that simply didn’t exist or were fantasy. My lawyer told me I would get out of prison early if I enter an in-prison drug program but neglected to check to see if my prison offered such a program – it didn’t. They had no idea what they were talking about and the bad information they gave me hurt me in manym many ways. In 20/20 hindsight, I needed a prison consultant who had been through the process from start to finish and had lived it himself, but I didn’t know that at the time. Not hiring such a prison consultant was the biggest mistake I made!
There are many prison consultants out there. My strong suggestion is to start interviewing them as soon as you think you may have a serious legal problem. They can help you from the outset. Take your time and interview as many prison consultants as seem credible. Just like hiring an attorney, hiring the right prison consultant for you is critical.
Although no one size fits all, and hiring the right prison consultant depends on one’s particular needs and situation, I would suggest a few rules:
- Do no hire anyone that hasn’t been through the process and to prison themselves. It is simply impossible for someone that hasn’t gone through it to understand how it all works.
- Do not hire anyone that does not have a legal background and/or very close relationships with criminal defense attorneys. The job of the prison consultant requires constant interaction with your attorney, and if your prison consultant doesn’t have a firm grasp of the law, this interaction is very difficult if not impossible.
- Do not hire anyone that asks for money upfront. There are too many con artists out there that will take your money and run and not produce any results. A good prison consultant will bill you by the hour just like an attorney, and/or will set up a flat fee that can be paid in installments.
- Ask for references and call and speak to those references to get a sense of the credibility of the prison consultant you are thinking of hiring.
- And finally, ask for writing samples of work the prison consultant has done. The prison consultant will have to write numerous letters, reports and emails on your behalf and if your consultant doesn’t have exemplary writing skills and knowledge of the issues at hand, he or she will not do you any good.
I have lived through all of this. Take the advice of someone that has credibility and experience: Good luck. You will need it. The system is unfair and sucks, but we can help even the playing field. If you have been arrested or indicted, contact us today.