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Making the best of a tough situation

One instead of 20. Months instead of years. Those numbers are testimony to what an effective criminal defense attorney can do when a client has made a mistake and been compelled to strike a plea deal with prosecutors.

In this case, as WKMG of Orlando reports, the person who made the mistake is Rep. Michael Grimm, who has announced that he would plead guilty to a single count of tax evasion and that he would within days resign from Congress.

The New York Congressman was indicted 8 months ago on 20 charges, including allegations that he filed false tax returns, and committed wire fraud, mail fraud and perjury, among other charges. The accusations against the former FBI agent were related to his ownership of a health food restaurant.

Instead of facing years in prison, if he had been convicted on all the charges, he is now expected to serve months, according to reports.

In his statement announcing the plea agreement and resignation, he apologized and admitted that "the unpaid taxes from a New York restaurant he once owned were a mistake."

In cases in which some degree of guilt is involved, those kinds of steps can be important: apologizing, expressing remorse and accepting responsibility for wrongdoing. When those factors are in place, an experienced defense attorney can in many instances successfully negotiate a favorable resolution with prosecutors.

Sometimes that can mean probation rather than jail time, and sometimes it means a reduced sentence on reduced charges. Other permutations are also possible, depending on circumstances.

Whether a person goes to trial or pleads guilty and negotiates a deal depends on many things. Important considerations include: did the person commit the crime as charged; whether the prosecution can put forth evidence to convince a jury to convict and potential defenses. An experienced defense counsel can properly analyze the facts, the law and the chances of a successful outcome at trial. The abilities of defense counsel in pointing out the weaknesses of the prosecution and the strengths of the defense plays an important factor in how favorable the terms of a plea agreement can be.