Federal Criminal Defense

Some time last year I was in federal court watching a sentencing hearing in a multi-defendant conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than a kilogram of heroin case. By multi-defendant I mean a case with thirty seven defendants.

My client’s case was one of the many, but he had already plead in front of the magistrate to a misdemeanor probation. I was only there partly out of curiosity – what would the other guys get? – and partly because I primarily practice in state court. Most criminal cases are state cases, so my experience in federal court pales in comparison. But it never hurts to sit around, watch other lawyers, and soak in the proceedings. Who knows when you might learn something? Heck, for that matter, I stick around in state district court whenever something interesting is going on, if I don’t have to be anywhere else.

By the way… how do you end up with a misdemeanor plea bargain agreement in a ten year mandatory minimum federal drug conspiracy? In this particular case, it was because the DEA agents misunderstood the code words my client (#34 in the indictment) and the big bad drug dealer (#2) used when setting up times for him to buy a small amount of dope for personal use.

Basically, when #2 said something like “One of those things” to his suppliers, he meant one ounce of heroin. When my guy asked for “One of those things” from #2 he was trying to buy a one fifth gram baggie of heroin. There are 28-ish grams in an ounce, and when you’re a DEA agent sorting through fourteen thousand wiretapped phone calls, and you accidently start believing that the drug transaction is for somewhere between 28 and 140 times (remember the one fifth of one gram baggies? So you have to multiply 28 by 5) the amount of heroin than is actually exchanging hands… tada! You think my guy is involved in the conspiracy to distribute as well.

Continue Reading “I Object to These Proceedings In Their Entirety!”

Prosecutorial discretion is immense. And it starts with the decision on whether someone should be prosecuted in the first place. Now submitted, for your approval, the stupidest prosecution yet, at least in terms of “your tax dollars at work”.

From the charging instrument filed last week (cause number 08-po-00237-MHW-1 for federal criminal defense lawyers with access to

Brian Williams had a scare piece on NBC Nightly News last night about the current ‘debate’ at the U.S. Sentencing Commission regarding making the new Federal Sentencing Guidelines for crack cocaine retroactive. (Apologies: the only link I could find to the piece forces you to watch a 15 to 30 second commercial first.)

Williams starts