Avoid These Mistakes If You’re Going To Federal Prison

Today while hitting golf balls in 100 degree heat at Westlake Golf Course, I received a call from a white collar defendant in New York City. He is 28.

If You're Going To Federal Prison Avoid These 2 Mistakes

If You’re Going To Federal Prison Avoid These 2 Mistakes

“Hey man say your videos. I’m not married. No kids. My mom is a wreck, but I tell her not to worry. My lawyer said nothing is going to happen,” he told me.

“I’m happy to hear nothing is going to happen. If I may ask then, why are you calling me?” I was unsure.

“I just plead guilty,” he said.

“I understand. Curiously, if you plead guilty, why are you telling people nothing is going to happen?” I figured this young man was either incredibly stoic or delusional ( I was incredibly delusional).

“Worst case I get probation. To ensure I don’t talk my former employer will settle with me. I’ll be loaded and will follow your path in writing a book. It’s all good!”

“What’s your guideline sentence?” I asked.

“Don’t know; just know my lawyer–a former US Attorney-said I’ll get probation.”

“What’s steps are you taking to prepare for the pre sentence report?” I asked.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“What are your plans to persuade the judge you’re worthy of probation?” I asked.

“Dude, my lawyer is a former US Attorney. My role was so minor. I got screwed by my former employer. Judge will see that. I called to tell you your video on dating after prison was awesome. I was wondering how to tell girls I’m a felon. Your video came up on YouTube.”

“I wish I was there to drop a bucket of cold ice on your head. Your lawyer should have done it weeks–no months ago. No wonder your mom is a wreck. You just plead guilty to federal charges. I’m not going to placate you or tell you what you want to hear. Maybe I don’t get your business because of it, but that’s okay. I’m crazy busy right now anyway.” I said.

“It’s time you start confronting some hard truths. When you do you’ll begin to turn your life around and you’ll immediately apologize to your mom. If you want my thoughts I’m happy to share them. If not, that’s okay, too.” I told him while twirling my sand wedge around in my hand.

“Go ahead. Tell me.” he said.


#1 Mistake: Avoid Living in Denial If You Are Going To Federal Prison

Too many defendants, including me, spend their days living in denial. Rather than embrace the reality that they may be going to federal prison, they convince themselves this process will end differently than the facts show.

Part of the reason that I lived in denial was because it was just easier. Shorter term, living in denial provide some benefits. I, and many defendants, fail to recognize that living in denial may work shorter term, but longer-term it is a disastrous strategy.

This defendant that reached out to me is clearly living in denial.

Further, he is not taking the time to understand exactly how he should be preparing for the best outcome. He’s also doing a poor job of holding his lawyer accountable. Certainly he should be preparing for his presentence investigation and at the least he should have an understanding of what his guideline sentence could be. He’s truly living in the dark.

As a result of his living in denial, he is going to get a different outcome than he should. There is always a chance that he may end up going to federal prison, and I reminded him that if he failed to embrace the gravity of the situation he will get a different outcome than he should.

#2 Mistake: If you are going to federal prison, avoid the victim mentality.

Experience teaches me that some white collar defendants do not prepare because they view themselves as the victim. I also did this for a while. I wanted to blame UBS, my co conspirator, my senior partner. It felt good at first to tell people UBS that UBS made me the fall guy. The problem was none of it was true. Regardless of what others did, I made bad choices. Victims, in my experience, blame others for their current circumstances. Again, like denial, it may feel better at the time, but longer-term it is a disastrous strategy.

If you are going to federal prison, avoid the victim mentality. The sooner you can shake yourself from denial and the feeling you are a victim, the better chance you have to get your life back on track.

Justin Paperny
P.S. Grab Ethics in Motion here, and learn more about the non profit that I run here.