When approaching a DC public corruption case, it is important to understand that there are a number of potential defenses available. Those defenses depend on the investigation conducted, what information is uncovered, the analysis of the government discovery, and other information that may be learned about the case.
Defenses can range from the federal or DC government not proving their case sufficiently to cases where the witness that the government is relying on is not credible. There may also be a potential defense that even if every fact the government puts forth is true, there is no violation of the law. For example, what the government alleges to be something of value is in fact not considered to be of value under that law.
Public corruption involves someone interacting with a person in public office. Money or some other thing of value is exchanged so that the person in public office does something they would not ordinarily do, which creates an advantage for someone. Both the giver and the receiver can be charged with bribery and they often are.
If someone is collaborating with the government, it does not mean they would not be charged. They might have a lesser charge against them or receive some other favorable considerations from the government. It is important to understand that public corruption and bribery cases have harsher sentences and the investigative techniques are more wide ranging.
One of the most common mistakes people make in bribery cases is agreeing to an interview with law enforcement without an attorney present because they think things will go well for them if they do an interview. That always turns out badly. Another mistake is not taking bribery charges seriously enough in the beginning. The person does not realize that they are the target of an investigation when federal law enforcement subpoenas their records and approaches them for an interview.
The first thing an attorney will do is speak to their client and get whatever information they might have about the situation. The attorney will generally speak to the client pretty extensively and then begin the investigation. The defense attorney is looking to find their own information, that just the client has access to, and talk to any potential witnesses.
The attorney wants to find information that will both help and potentially hurts the case. If the defense can find out the information that they believe may hurt them, they can prepare to defend against that, in addition to working to find evidence that affirmatively helps the client.
When analyzing the government’s case, the attorney is trying to identify its weaknesses and strengths. The defendant and their attorney want to know if the government has a strong case on a particular element. For example, the government’s case is surrounding the fact that what was provided was a thing of value. That may not be where the defense wants to focus their efforts.
The defense’s approach to the public corruption case may be that the defense accepts the 80 percent of the government’s evidence produced regarding that element. They will then spend 80 percent of their time in trial proving that what was provided was a thing or value. If the attorney does not dispute that element it blunts the force of the argument. The defense can then acknowledge that they have accepted it all along as a thing of value. The key is that the client did not actually provide the thing of value, or when it was provided, they did not have corrupt intent.
There may be a great deal of strategy that arises outside of information found by the defense initially. Much of it may be derived from what can be seen when looking at the government’s public corruption case.
The overall trend is for more of these cases to be investigated and prosecuted. Public corruption has been a focus of the US Attorney’s Office for generations. Going back several years, there is a steady increase in the resources that federal prosecutors put into these types of crimes.
There are many public corruption bribery cases in DC because the District is included in the federal bribery statute. Even a lower-level official in DC, who is being investigated for bribery, is prosecuted in federal court in DC. That is not necessarily the case in Virginia where a local public official is alleged to have committed bribery. Unless there is some other tie to the federal government or federal law, the case is prosecuted under state law in a state court. Any kind of corruption by a public official in DC, whether local or federal, is going to be prosecuted in federal court.
What is challenging in bribery and public corruption cases are the number of witnesses and the amount of information involved. It can sometimes feel like a giant jigsaw puzzle and the pieces do not all fit together. The challenge is to fit the pieces together in a way that makes sense. It takes a lot of hard work and creativity to put the pieces together sometimes.
There is never any advantage to speaking to law enforcement agents when you are the target of an investigation. There is no disadvantage to not speaking with law enforcement and politely saying that you do not want to answer questions without an attorney.
Most people who get caught up in federal public corruption and bribery investigations have never been accused of any wrongdoing before. It is a totally new process and can be overwhelming and extremely stressful to them. It is important that if you are involved in an investigation, you work with a lawyer who is understanding and can walk you through this process while making sure that you feel comfortable and are not overwhelmed.