Saturday, October 28, 2006

Guilty Defendants (You know who you are) The Best Defense May not be the Most Expensive

Floyd Norris of the New York Times recently posted in his Notions on High and Low Finance blog an excellent commentary about Jeff Skilling’s $70 million defense in the Enron fraud in a post entitled “The Worthless $70 million Defense.”

He wrote in part:

“Jeffrey Skilling’s $70 million defense got him 24 years in prison and an order to forfeit $24 million.”

With regards to other corporate scandals he wrote:

“HealthSouth and CUC International, admitted there was a scandal, but insisted they were victims of crooked subordinates. Sometimes the defense worked, sometimes it did not.”

I posted the following thoughts on his blog in response to his commentary:

My Comment and Advice to Guilty Defendants (You Know Who You Are):
The exposed criminal’s “best defense that money can buy” is the truth. A person must take full responsibility for their actions and hold themselves fully accountable without any excuse. They should never rationalize their criminal conduct.
About 20 years ago after 18 years involvement in the massive fraud at Crazy Eddie’s and an additional two years spent obstructing justice and covering up my crimes and others from the government I decided to “cooperate” for the purely selfish reason of avoiding a very long prison sentence.
I cooperated for 4 years thereafter and was the main witness in the criminal trial and five years later in the SEC civil trial.
During my initial 4 years of cooperation (which included over a thousand meetings and discussions) with government investigators and the US Attorney my lawyer was never present (except my initial meeting) and I had no benefit of any legal protection whatsoever. I finally signed a plea agreement after 4 years which was amended at the request of the government twice to increase my criminal exposure.
My sentencing Judge received only 5 letters – 2 from the government and 3 from attorneys representing crime victims. There was none of the usual letters from friends, relatives, and community members.
My sentencing guidelines exposure was 5 years incarceration and the US Attorney recommended 2 years jail time. My statement to the Judge was simple, “I am embarrassed to say I knew what I did was wrong when I did it.”
I never went to prison and my criminal defense cost me far less than any of the criminal defendants mentioned directly or indirectly above in Mr. Norris’s commentary.
While you may disagree with this “law and order” Republican appointed Judge’s decision regarding my admittedly light sentence the fact is that he took into account the truthfulness of my testimony, the fact that I made no excuses, the fact the I used no handler’s (attorneys) in making myself fully accessible to both criminal and civil plaintiff investigators and most of all the fact that I was willing to risk everything (by having no legal protection for 4 years) in helping the government and civil plaintiffs obtain justice.
Everyone has a right to a legal defense. However, I caution the guilty (you know who you are), from my own experience as an admitted venomous criminal it is far better to settle earlier and take responsibility and put it all behind you than to build wings to law firms.
There is a saying among criminals, “some lawyers will defend you to your last dollar.”
Every dollar you save in legal fees and resources you save the prosecutors and civil plaintiffs reduces the damages to your victims and their suffering.
If you are guilty, it is far better to face the mercy of the Court than its anger.
Sam E. Antar (Former Crazy Eddie CFO)
— Posted by Sam E. Antar

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