In our article, “What Did Noor Salman Say to the FBI And Why You Should Never Talk To The Police Without a Lawyer,” we discussed why you should never talk to authorities without a lawyer. People reading that article may naturally think that speaking to the authorities is appropriate when you are innocent and have nothing to hide. We have represented clients who believed they were innocent, spoke to authorities, and were charged with crimes. Some of those clients were not convicted. While it may seem counterintuitive, lawyers often advise clients not to speak to authorities even if the clients believe they have nothing to hide. For example, Rudy Giuliani has advised President Donald J. Trump not to speak to the Special Counsel. When asked why, Mr. Giuliani unartfully told NBC’s Chuck Todd, “the truth isn’t the truth.” Every lawyer who practices complex criminal law knows that what Giuliani meant to say was correct. The following examples illustrate why.
Case One: Our client is a former government employee who contracts with government agencies. He submitted data electronically that included metadata embedded in photographs. While the metadata was inconsistent with information contained within a document submitted with the photograph, there was a simple explanation. Law enforcement agents called the client and lulled him into meeting for coffee to discuss minor things about his business. At a Starbucks, the agents went over the client’s government service and asked about the inconsistency between the metadata and the submitted document. When the client tried to explain the harmless error, agents became enraged that he would not confess to their version of the truth. Several weeks after the meeting, the client and his wife were on a date. A local police officer did not believe the client came to a complete stop at an intersection and pulled him over. After checking his name, the client was arrested and taken to jail for the inconsistency. Shortly after being released on bond, we quickly conducted a thorough defense investigation and convinced the prosecutor no crime had taken place. One month later, the client’s nightmare was over, and the case ended without a conviction.
Case Two: When our client was arrested, he gave a statement to federal agents denying the allegations against him. This was a rare occasion when federal agents recoded an interview immediately after an arrest. Although several agents interrogated him, the client vehemently denied committing any crime but made a few statements that did not reflect well on him. Before the trial began, the prosecutor asked to only admit the portions of the recording that helped the prosecution, but prohibit the defense from admitting the portions that showed the prosecution was wrong about our client. The prosecutor did not tell the judge about several appellate cases finding the prosecutor’s proposal improper, but we found the cases and alerted the trial judge. After admitting we were right, the prosecutor decided not to use any part of the recorded statement because it did not match the prosecutor’s version of the truth. The Federal Rules of Evidence prohibited us from playing the recorded statement to the jury. The jury never heard the client deny the prosecutor’s version of the truth and explain what happened. The client took the stand, but testifying in court is a daunting task for people who do not routinely testify in court or regularly practice it – like government agents do. In the sterile courtroom environment, the jury did not get to hear the client’s emotions, indignation, and passionate plea of innocence.
Case Three: Our client is a licensed medical professional, who federal agents confronted in the parking lot of his business. New York agents were investigating an international money laundering conspiracy and believed our client was a subject. A subject is someone’s who conduct is being investigated and the government has not decided whether to charge the subject. The client refused to speak with the agents and retained us immediately. We quickly and thoroughly conducted a defense investigation and communicated with the prosecutor. We negotiated conditions where the client would sit for an interview with the prosecutor and agents, but the client’s statements could not be used against him. During the meeting, we presented evidence and answered questions the prosecutor and agent posed. At the end of the interview, the prosecutor determined our client would not be charged.
I could detail more examples, but it is unnecessary to do so to get the point across. Giuliani was trying to say that truth is in the eye of the beholder. When the beholder is a government agent or prosecutor, failing to confirm what they believe the truth to be can lead to charges. Even people who have been acquitted would most certainly have preferred not to have been charged in the first place.
It is imperative to retain counsel experienced in criminal and civil fraud investigations to navigate the perils you face when government agencies want to speak with you. Even if you believe you are innocent and have nothing to hide, you should not speak to government agents without first retaining experienced counsel. If you are under federal or state investigation, or if you are an attorney with a client who is part of a federal or state investigation, contact the Law Offices of Horwitz & Citro, P.A. immediately. Call (407) 901-5852 to request a free initial consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.