Whether or not you believe the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump and the subsequent trial were proper, several elected Congressional representatives compared it to a criminal investigation and trial. My intent here is not to comment on the votes, but rather on civics lessons officials forgot.
Closing Arguments and an Important Civics Lesson
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Representative Val Demings as one of the House managers to argue the impeachment in the Senate. A disturbing civics lesson came during Demings’s closing argument. When explaining the evidence that warranted a conviction, Demings proclaimed several times, “Innocent people don’t try to hide every document and witness, especially those that would clear them. That’s what guilty people do.”
We have addressed the Department of Justice’s increasing reliance on process crimes to convict people who have not committed an offense. This often happens when the government considers the truth to be something different than what a witness tells it. We covered this in our blog Lying to The Feds Is A Crime And You Can Be Convicted Even If You Never Lied To The Feds.
Investigation Closed in Healthcare Fraud Scheme Case
We recently represented a successful healthcare services provider who had his worst nightmare come true. An FBI agent met with the client and served him with two grand jury subpoenas that were related to a joint venture he previously had with a business partner and another company the business partner created.
The Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., U.S. Attorney’s Office, and several federal law enforcement agencies were investigating a nationwide healthcare fraud scheme that Congress demanded be investigated. In total, the fraud exceeded $100 million in losses.
As a result of a thorough defense investigation, we advised the government that our client was not the proper person served and that no response to the subpoena would be made. The government refused to challenge our legal analysis or position.
The government demanded the client provide an interview and testify before the grand jury, all without immunity, “if he has nothing to hide.” We declined the government’s offer, and a year later, we were happy to tell our client that the Department of Justice closed its investigation into him. This was not a unique experience for us.
An Innocent Person Does not Have to Prove Their Innocence
The government has the burden of proving a person violated criminal law. It is never the burden of a citizen to prove that they are innocent.
In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court said:
“But we have never held, as the Supreme Court of Ohio did, that the privilege is unavailable to those who claim innocence. To the contrary, we have emphasized that one of the Fifth Amendment’s ‘basic functions’...is to protect innocent men...‘who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances…’” The Court went on to say, “we recognized that truthful responses of an innocent witness, as well as those of a wrong-doer, may provide the government with incriminating evidence from the speaker’s own mouth.”
In short, Demings’s civics lesson should be forgotten.
Discuss Your Case with an Attorney First
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 talk 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 us at (407) 901-5852 to request a free initial consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Orlando.