Regardless of what good Sam Bankman-Fried has done in the past, others will judge him for the criminal misconduct alleged in the complaint.

Unfortunately, people in his predicament lack a best-practice way of preparing.

To use a cliche, they resemble that deer-in-the-headlights pose.

When defendants, like Bankman-Fried, don’t have previous experience with the system, they understandably feel shaken, afraid, and alone. Some defendants do not know where to turn for guidance.

All too often, they rely solely upon defense attorneys. And defense attorneys can be an outstanding resource. Yet think about the training of a defense attorney.

What traits do they have?

They are trained to assess evidence of the crime
They are skilled at interpreting case law
They know how to research statutes
They will focus on undermining what authorities believe they can prove
They will support arguments to get the best outcome for the defendant with precedent and law

Those are admirable skills, necessary to the practice of criminal defense. But those skills do not always make defense attorneys good listeners. They may not know much about the personal lives of the defendants they’re supposed to defend. Unfortunately, in the federal system, more than 90% of the people that face criminal charges also undergo a sentencing hearing.

Given the statistics, Bankman-Fried should begin preparing for sentencing. But how?

It starts with understanding the stakeholders–in other words, he must understand his audience.

Who are the stakeholders in the criminal justice system?
What do they think?
In what ways can we influence those people?

It doesn’t matter what stage in the criminal justice system a person is in, it’s crucial to consider the audience. For 90% of the criminal defendants that will face a sentencing hearing, those stakeholders include the following people:

The prosecutor will persuade the judge to convict the defendant.
The probation officer will prepare the presentence investigation report.
The judge will assess the appropriate sentence.
The defense attorney that will argue for the best outcome.
The case manager in federal prison
The probation officer on supervised release.

Bankman-Fried must consider each of those people and come up with a personal plan to influence them.

Bankman-Fried should ask and answer:

What do they know about me?
What don’t they know about me?
What do they know about my alleged crime?
What could I do to influence their perception of me?

This exercise would get him on track to potentially getting a better outcome at sentencing.

Happy New Year!
Justin Paperny

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