When you retain a defense lawyer or a consultant, their job, our job is to make your life better. And one way you can make your life better is by stopping the bleeding and getting on a path towards the best possible outcome. And that may be getting the shortest sentence. To do that, you’ve got to hold your lawyer accountable, ask tough questions and be involved, be informed in the process.

Joel, a white collar defendant called after watching a video I filmed four or five years ago called, Federal prison camp tips and tricks. In fact, I even did an encore edition where I opened up about some guy who was making fun of our dogs, calling them ugly, Memphis and Kody.

So in this video tips and tricks, I mentioned that defendants should get their sentencing memorandum from their defense attorney well before it’s due. So the sentencing memorandum of course is a very big deal. It goes to the government, the judge is going to comment on it. It’s going to articulate your lawyer’s position of why you’re worthy of a shorter sentence, the background and aberrational conduct, other cases that warranted downward departure. It’s a really important document.

In that video, I said, “Don’t get the sentencing memorandum before it’s turned in, so you have an opportunity to review it.”

And no, it does no good to get it a day or two days or three hours before it’s due because you don’t really have any time to review it. It’s utterly useless. It doesn’t make any sense. So a number of white collar defendants who have watched that video have since held their lawyer accountable to get the memorandum and get involved in it.

  • Well, in this case, this defendant saw the video, asked his lawyer, “Hey, my sentencing is like next Thursday,” or something, or next Monday. Yeah, today’s Wednesday. Next Monday. “I’d love to review my sentencing memorandum. I’d love to offer you some input.”

And the lawyer, a former US attorney who is paid a quarter million dollars from this defendant, I learned, the lawyer basically said, “The sentencing memorandum was turned in last Friday. I don’t share it with my clients, which means I’m not going to share it with you. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I have a lot of experience. I know what I’m doing. I don’t need any input.”

And the defendant of course, was very distraught that he hadn’t had a chance to review it. And I told him, “Dude, this could be the greatest memorandum that’s ever been written. You should have reviewed it. You should have some insights into the document, I think.” And I then said, “Well, ask him if the narrative you said you wrote in your character reference letters were built into this narrative, where it really talks about your character and who you are in your own words, rather than just the lawyer saying it.” Again, that comes from what Federal Judge Stephen Bough told us on YouTube where the lawyers are paid to articulate why you’re worthy of leniency. No disrespect to lawyers. The judges want to hear it from the defendant. So I said, “Find out how personal this sentencing memorandum is rather than just sort of templated stuff judges have seen a million times.”

So he reached out to the defense attorney. The defense attorney didn’t take the time to answer, but rather said, “Just don’t question the way that I do my job. Don’t.” And then I told the client, maybe a client, I said, “Well, did you get your question answered about the narrative and the letters?” He said, “No, my lawyer was upset that I inquired.” Then he said, “Well, I’m uncomfortable asking now. And he’s going to be representing me at sentencing next week. I don’t want to upset him or push any buttons or ruffle any feathers. My life is in his hands, right?”

So to a degree he’s cowering and he’s slightly afraid. And I empathize with him rather than embracing a collaboration, telling the lawyer, “I’m giving you a lot of money. I trusted you. This is a big deal. You will have hundreds of cases throughout your life, but none of them are more important than this case is to my family and me. And I need your help and I want to review it. And I want your input.”

He then tried one more time to reach out to the lawyer. And the defense lawyer basically doubled down and said, “Look, even if I shared the sentencing memorandum with you, which is something I don’t do, I wouldn’t have valued or needed your input anyway. So even if you got it, it wouldn’t have mattered. This is what I’ve been doing for 30 years.” So this client or this defendant, I think he’ll be a client from what it seems, this defendant has unfortunately fallen into the victim of hiring a lawyer that has a God complex, that is unwilling to accept the opinion or feedback or thoughts from the people he’s paid well to represent.

So as I wrap up this five or six minute video from a gorgeous day in Newport Beach, wishing all of you a happy early Father’s Day, including to my wonderful father, don’t be afraid to hold people that you give a lot of money to. You got to hold them accountable. You got to ask the right questions. You should be the biggest advocate as you’re preparing for sentencing, just like you need to be your best advocate to try to get out of prison early or get off probation early. And you’ve got to do that by asking tough questions and dealing with some confrontation. Not always confrontational, but sometimes it’s going to happen.

So this defendant is distraught that he has not reviewed this sentencing memorandum in advance of his sentencing on Monday.

It doesn’t mean we cannot work on his statement that he’ll make, asking for the right federal prison and all the right programs and all that good stuff. But as he said to me, “I wish I saw this video sooner. I wish I knew to ask for the sentencing memorandum sooner. I wish I pushed sooner. Instead, it’s too late. I have more stress now than ever.” And that comes back to how I opened. Our job is to make your life better, stronger, alleviate the stress and pain that you feel rather than add to it. Learn from this defendant, ask better questions, hold people with whom you hire accountable and get that sentencing memorandum well before it is due!

To close get involved, share your thoughts. You’re articulate. You’re smart. You’re educated. You’ve been through it. No one knows this case better than you. So get involved, get active. That will make the sentencing memorandum more authentic, which is what judges tell us they want to hear.

Thank you very much for watching and subscribing.

Goodbye.

author avatar
Justin Paperny