How does cooperation work in federal criminal cases?
New York white collar criminal defense attorney, Florian Miedel, explains how cooperation with law enforcement works.
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Cooperation is the sort of dirty, not so much secret secret of the federal criminal jurisprudence. The reality is that there’s almost no federal case in this country in which the federal government doesn’t use at least one cooperating witness. And that’s because in addition to the other evidence that the feds may have in terms of wiretaps, documents, they want to have somebody on the inside who can tell a jury at trial what happened. And so in almost every case they seek cooperation from people that they arrest in the case. And so if you spend any time practicing criminal federal law, you will represent cooperating witnesses and that’s just the way it is.
And cooperators get a tremendous benefit by cooperating in federal cases. The way it works is that they plead guilty and as long as they do what the government asks them to do, which may include testifying, it may include wearing wires, it may include numerous meetings. As long as they do what they’re supposed to do, the government will write them a letter as sentencing time, which will lay out for the judge exactly what the person did and how they provided substantial assistance. And as a result, the judge will sentence the person considerably below what the person otherwise would have gotten.
And for many people who are facing tremendously long periods of time, that is the only way that they will ever see the light of day. And that may be that people who have committed murders will end up with sentences of under ten years, five years, I’ve seen things like that. It’s part of the system, it’s, I frankly, think it’s somewhat a distasteful part of the system but it is part of it and that’s what we deal with.