Steve’s Fresh Perspective

The Proffer Letter:

The First Landmine in Federal Criminal Defense Practice


Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) often take the position that a proffer letter, or a “Queen for a Day” agreement, is intended to protect a defendant who ultimately chooses not to cooperate with the government.   Stated another way, as the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals did in United States v. Threw, 861 F.2d 1046 (7th Cir. 1988), “the purpose of [a proffer letter], according to the government, is to ensure that in the event a cooperating defendant decides not to plead guilty, any information he may have ‘proffered’ to the government cannot later be used against him at trial” or sentencing, with some exceptions.  It is those exceptions that call into question a proffer letter’s true purpose.  In my view, the purpose of a proffer letter, from the government’s perspective, is to ensure that a defendant pleads guilty, because if he goes to trial after proffering, he is going to sentencing as well.

A typical two-page proffer letter in the District of Maryland contains the following language (liberally summarized): Continue reading “Steve’s Fresh Perspective”

Steve’s Fresh Perspective

A Victory for Discretion

In 2004, the then-US Attorney for the District of Maryland famously wrote in a leaked email that he wanted three front-page indictments by November of that year. Though open to interpretation, the impression left by the poorly-drafted missive is that prosecutors should seek headlines rather than justice. Let’s give credit to the prosecutors involved in the Petraeus/ Broadwell affair, er, matter for their exercise of sound discretion. Continue reading “Steve’s Fresh Perspective”

DoJ News

Alleged Trafficker of Counterfeit Automotive Accessories Indicted in Virginia.

Miami Area Assisted Living Facility Owners Plead Guilty for Roles in $63 Million Fraud Scheme.

Forced Waiver of the Corporate Attorney-Client Privilege,” Corporate Counsel, Oct. 25, 2012.

Rajaratnam Appeal Judges Voice Concern Over U.S. Wiretaps,” Bloomberg, Oct. 25, 2012.  [Related Story]

Bank of America Faces Claim of ‘Brazen’ Mortgage Fraud,” New York Law Journal, Oct. 25, 2012.

Antibribery Track Record: Republicans vs. Democrats,” Corporate Counsel, Oct. 24, 2012. [Related Story]

 “Business Groups File Challenge to SEC Conflict Minerals Rule,” Corporate Counsel, Oct. 24, 2012.

 “Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer On … ,” FCPA Professor,” Oct. 24, 2012.  [Breuer’s Remarks in html and pdf]

 Also, attached please find a PDF file of the following recently released paper:

 Ryan M. Rodenberg and Anastasios Kaburakis, Legal and Corruption Issues in Sports Gambling (Oct. 2012)




Steve’s Fresh Perspective

What Rep. Rangel’s Non-Indictment Says About Our System:

As a recovering federal prosecutor, I see an occasional injustice that I might not have seen when I was with the US Attorney’s Office in the District of Maryland.  A businessman, for instance, is wrongfully targeted and subsequently suffers from the toll such an investigation takes on both his personal and professional life.  Or, a defendant is named in an indictment which should not have named him at all.  Even if acquitted, that defendant loses his reputation, his friends, and his money, among other things.  While such injustices exist, only clients, their families and their attorneys seem to take note.  Continue reading “Steve’s Fresh Perspective”

Steve’s Fresh Perspective

Prisoner Transfer Program

Like many of our colleagues practicing criminal defense, we have seen an increase in the number of immigrants being prosecuted in our jurisdictions.  Surprisingly, while many questions that potential clients ask are expected (how strong is the government’s case? what kind of sentence am I looking at if I get convicted? what is your fee? do you take credit cards?) some clients, I’m told, are met with blank stares when they ask their prospective attorneys about where such a sentence might be served.  Consequently, it is perhaps more important now than ever before to spread the word that a prisoner in the United States, who is a foreigner, may be transferred to his home country to serve out his sentence. 

According to the Department of Justice, Office of Enforcement Operations, website, the International Prisoner Transfer Program began in 1977 when our government negotiated the first in a series of treaties to permit the transfer of prisoners from countries in which they had been convicted of crimes to their home countries. The program is designed to relieve some of the special hardships that fall upon offenders incarcerated far from home, and to facilitate the rehabilitation of these offenders. Prisoners may be transferred to and from those countries with which the United States has a treaty. (Participating countries are listed here). While all prisoner transfer treaties are negotiated principally by the United States Department of State, the program itself is administered by the United States Department of Justice.   Continue reading “Steve’s Fresh Perspective”

Steve’s Fresh Perspective

Thanks to Allan Lengel of for sending us this interesting piece about Freedom of Speech, entitled Is it OK to Shout Fire in a Chatroom?   The article, written by a retired FBI agent, raises an issue that will not soon be retired:  when does free speech cross the line and become a criminal act?  In the era of wiretapping, government surveillance and terrorism, it is a question worth asking.