Federal Prison Consultants
Hi. I’m Justin Paperny with White Collar Advice, and today I’m going to talk about the criminal justice system’s objectivity versus subjectivity, When we talk about subjectivity, we’re really dealing with personal feelings, personal tastes, and opinions.
Objectivity is really quite simple. Did you get into the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP), or did you not get into RDAP? Did you get the federal prison of your choosing, or did you not get the federal prison of your choosing? It’s very clearly defined: It’s black and white.
I’m going to focus more on the subjectivity of it, because well, if you’re dealing with criminal defense lawyers and federal prison consultants, you may get a variety of opinions, and that’s because it’s subjective. Your job as a white collar defendant or a lawyer, if you’re interviewing federal prison consultants for a client or a family member, is to use as much data as you possibly can to make informed decisions, knowing that at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to your judgment.
Let’s transition into a phone call I had earlier today that was frustrating. I spoke with a white collar defendant who was interviewing federal prison consultants. On our call, I proposed a number of things that I thought he should do in advance of his federal sentencing. I told him before offering these suggestions that there’s no guarantee that any of it works.
He’s only going to get sentenced one time, so it’s not as if we have an alternative, or what would happen if he didn’t do any of it? In other words, I don’t know exactly what would happen if he chose not to do volunteer work or if he chose not to write a narrative or if he chose not to speak openly and publicly about his crime, as many of my prison consulting clients do with me.
Every suggestion that I eventually made he defaulted to, “How do I know if that will work? How do I know if that will work?”
Well, it’s subjective. There’s no guarantee that it will work. Is there a chance the day of your federal sentencing the judge shows up and gives you the worst possible outcome despite your efforts? Maybe. That he could care less about your narrative, your volunteer work, your letters? I suppose, but we’ll never really know. I doubt a judge is going to tell you that.
My clients, the people that follow my work or work with me, embrace the idea that while standing at sentencing, before sentence, they want to be able to say to themselves, “There’s nothing more I could have done to prepare for this moment.”
Indeed, the way that you get the best outcome is by preparing for the absolute worst outcome. It’s like life insurance. I have life insurance on my wife and little girl. I hope to never use it. Believe me, I don’t, but God forbid, if something happens, it’s there. I want to prepare for the worst case outcome. That’s how you get the best outcome. I think all of you should do that whether you work with me and my federal prison consultants or somebody else. To succeed, you have to embrace how subjective this process actually is.
Let’s transition into some specifics. I lecture at USC … I don’t know … 15 to 20 times a year. I’m very grateful that my second book, Ethics in Motion, they actually make required reading for a number of business classes. Next month on the 22nd of September, I’ll return to USC to lecture at the business school. Then that following Monday, I’ll speak with a number of individual classes. On the 22nd, I share my story, the Lessons From Prison story, then the following Monday, I’ll share stories from my second book, Ethics in Motion.
Recently I suggested to some clients in Los Angeles, who have already pled guilty … Their case is open in the public. I said, “You should come with me and speak at USC. You should come at the end of my class. I’ll ask you some questions. Share your cautionary tale. Educate others on the consequences that follow bad decisions. Educate others on how you did not have criminal intent, but how working out of gray areas, and not fully understanding your tendencies, succumbing to pressures, not adequately managing temptations, have put you in a position where you’re separated from your wife, your kids, and children.” That is a valuable message to share with business students.
Now, as a federal prison consultant, I’ve had this conversation a lot of times over the years with defendants, and oftentimes the first thing they say is, “Will speaking lead to a shorter federal prison sentence?”
I get it. It’s okay to be opportunistic. I understand if you’re going to give back and speak about the greatest failure of your lifetime you would like some benefit. Essentially that’s what you’re doing as a public speaker. It’s like getting an F in class, and then your teacher says to you, “Hello, Justin. I’d like you to tell the whole world about the biggest F you’ve ever made in your whole life.” It’s humbling. It’s embarrassing.
It’s a tough talk. So I can understand if you’re going to endure it, you may want to get something on the other end. I make quite clear. There may be nothing that comes from it. You may speak, get good feedback, get bad feedback, perhaps it’s cathartic. Perhaps it feels good to speak openly about your decisions to own it as you prepare for the next phase of your life. Sometimes it can help. Sometimes judges will appreciate and make comment over public speaking, and I’m going to transition to that in a moment.
As I propose it to certain prison consulting clients, I encourage them to run the idea by their lawyer.
Now, when we talk about how subjective this process is, in a matter of one hour a couple of weeks ago, I had one lawyer say, “I think it’s a terrible idea for you to go to USC with Justin and speak. I think you should lay low in advance of your sentencing, get yourself off the radar.”
That was one lawyer’s opinion. About 35 minutes later, another lawyer said, “I think it’s a great idea for you to go to speak, for you to speak. It will make you feel good. It will help others. I know the pain that you’re in, and perhaps it will save someone else from going down this road, and yeah. Maybe we get a letter from the professor, and maybe I mention it in your sentencing memorandum, but maybe not. I think it would be very good for you.”
Just like that. One lawyer says yes, another lawyer says no. Both cases are equally as public. Both cases are actually very similar in the healthcare space.
I told the client, “You have to make your own decision. You have to exercise your own judgment. I think there’s value for you in telling the story and speaking openly. I think it begins to prepare you for the next phase of your life, because I believe how well you tell your story, in many ways, will influence how well you overcome part of this process.” That’s one example.
Another example is volunteering. Certainly I have helped line up volunteer work for clients. Sometimes when it comes up, they’ll say, “Is that going to help me at sentencing?” I get it. I’ve been there. It may help. You may get a great kick-ass letter from the non-profit organization attesting to your hard work, and certainly it could help. A letter that I turned in on my sentencing was from a non-profit organization, the black business association. It really helped me. They authenticated what I did. It was verified. Certainly over the years, some defendants have said, “Hey, will you write a letter for me if I hire you?” I say, “There’s no quid pro quo. You have to do the work. We have to measure it. If you do the work and we measure it and you’re providing value, yeah. The organization wherever you volunteer should write a letter for you.”
Again, earlier today on this phone call, the defendant said, “Well, how do I know volunteer work is going to help me?” I can’t say for sure.
It would be misleading for me to say for sure it’s going to help you, because it may not influence the judge. But what’s the downside in giving back and volunteering your time, of speaking openly about your conduct? It can go over so many issues besides volunteering and speaking. Generating character reference letters. There’s a lot of talk about letters and how many to collect. That’s a strategy. Depending on the judge, I think your lawyer should know if the judge is more likely to read five letters versus 50.
Again, earlier today, this defendant said, “Why am I going to get letters? I don’t know for sure the judge is going to read it.”
It was a very cynical view of every suggestion that I had. The rebuttal was, “I don’t know if it’s going to work.” Look, I really couldn’t help him, and I’ve been criticized in the past for acknowledging that I might not be able to help, that I may not be able to help everyone, but I think federal prison consultants should be brutally honest and confront inconvenient truths and hard truths as someone is going down this path. It’s difficult enough as it is.
I’m of the opinion that before you stand in front of the judge, you want to be able to tell yourself and your family, “There’s nothing more I could have done, even if I don’t know exactly how much it’s going to help me.”
A lot of federal prison consultants talk about personal narratives. Certainly, you should see narratives that they’ve written. Get an example. Ask, “Hey. Has a judge ever commented on a narrative that you’ve written? Has it ever been discussed?” Certainly, that’s something that you should want to consider. How well do they write? How well do they articulate an argument? What’s the background, the introspection, the thoughts?
Those are important things to consider, but again, there’s no absolute guarantee that a judge is going to say, “Because of your narrative, I was going to give you three years, but now I’m going to give you probation.” If we’re going to be negative or cynical, your judgment should tell you not to take action, because you don’t believe there’s anything that you can do to impact your outcome.
I’m of the opinion that defendants succeed when they mitigate, when they learn to advocate for themselves.
I have clients that have given lawyers a million dollars. I have many clients that have worked with public defenders. Irrespective of whether you have a public defender or you’ve retained a lawyer, the onus is on you to articulate through your own efforts, your own words, your own actions, why you’re worthy of the best outcome.
If I can help you, if my team and I can help you do that, that’s awesome. If you think you’re there, you can get there on your own, great. Watch my videos. Read my free books. Regardless, you’ve got to prepare and take matters into your own hand, because the government currently owns the narrative of your life. The government owns the narrative. Yes, I just said that twice. Yeah, I wasn’t sure what to say, so I said it twice. Work with me here.
They own the narrative. You can embrace it and let them continue to control the narrative, or you can work to shake it. You can work to begin to create a new record that demonstrates that you’re better than some bad decisions you made.
Now, let me reiterate. I know for many of you, it’s tough to accept that responsibility. People have said to me, “Is it hard to read your Department of Justice press releases that castigate you as a criminal?” No, it’s not, because it’s true. I did it. I willfully crossed the line. I created victims. I embarrassed my family. I ruined my career. I deserved to be held accountable, and I deserved to go to prison. For me, the process was much easier, because I did it. I couldn’t manage temptation. I succumbed to an aggressive corporate culture. I knew right from wrong, yet it did not stop me, so imprisonment for me was much easier, because I did it.
I know many of you watching this should not be going to federal prison.
I know many of you watching this pled guilty only because the odds of prevailing at trial were too low. I know many of you watching this engaged out of gray areas and at worst, you thought it would be a civil sanction, and not criminal. Therefore, accepting responsibility is tough, and if you do take a plea agreement, it can be tough for you to speak openly and honestly, because you actually feel like you’re lying. That’s the irony of the criminal justice system. So many defendants feel as if they took a plea agreement that is pure fiction, but they felt as though they had to, so they end up saying they’re sorry when they don’t think they did anything wrong. I understand it.
What I’m conveying to you is you’re here watching me to learn, I think, a number of things, including how do you get the best sanction in the most favorable institution? If you pled guilty, whether you had criminal intent or not, if you pled guilty, whether you intended to create victims or not, the onus is on you to articulate to every stakeholder that you can become better. I propose that speaking openly, volunteering, generating a letter that is not boiler plate garbage, that is unique to your background, your life, your circumstances, will help you. They will help you.
I’m going to close with two thoughts on the public speaking. There was a female in Chicago last year who was looking at five or six years in federal prison. I’ll put up a link to it. I’ll actually read it right here. The judge commented on her efforts to give back. For example, it said, “US District Judge Thomas Durkin told Hilsabeck, who admitted to falsifying medical records, that her sentence would be closer to Gillman’s had she not worked to educate others about healthcare fraud since her indictment.
The judge said, ‘Not every defendant does what she does.'” Here we have a judge that commented on her efforts to educate others on healthcare fraud. That’s a data point. That’s something to learn from.
I hope that my clients who speak with me at USC next month get a similar outcome from their judge and the judge appreciates their efforts to give back, but there’s no guarantee. You can counter that with Garrett Bauer, who I spoke with before he went to federal prison, who is serving nine years for a very large insider trading case.
Garrett spoke, I think, to 147 classes before he surrendered to federal prison. He still got nine years in federal prison. It didn’t seem to sway the judge. Again, it’s very subjective. It’s based on personal opinions and tastes. They have different feelings about defendants. My suggestion is you do it all, the volunteering, the speaking, the narrative, the letters, the building of a new business, both before you go in and while you’re in prison.
Lastly … I know I ramble … I spoke to a defendant a couple of days ago that said, “I may be cooperating in a case that may go on for a year. It’s already gone on for a year. I’ve done nothing over the last year.” He said, “What do you think?” I said, “Well, then you might as well already be in federal prison. Your life’s on hold. You’re not doing anything productive. You’re just waiting. You might as well already be in jail getting credit.” He was like, “Yeah. That is kind of how I feel.” I said, “What would you like to do?” He’s like, “I have a great business idea.” I said, “Let’s begin to build it.” The reason my company is White Collar Advice is because so much of the work I do is before prison, and the hardest part, after prison, coming home.
Frankly, the federal prison part of it, the planning is the easiest part, despite what others may tell you, because some federal prison consultants want to scare you to get your business. There is nothing to be scared about.
There’s as much violence in a camp as there is in a 7-Eleven. If you’re going to watch this, use the time productively. Use the time to educate others, to work openly with your lawyer, and to do things that frankly people think are crazy.
The next video I’m filming is called My Last Day in Federal Prison. I’m going to talk about upon my release, visiting my website for the first time and viewing the many favorable and unfavorable comments from people, and how that impacted me and what I learned from that experience. I’ll touch on that in my next video. Until then, I encourage you to read, to embrace the process. You should read both of my books. They’re free. Ethics in Motion is free. Lessons From Prison is free. You should opt in. You should get the book. I’m not going to aggressively market and sell you. That is not my style.
Anyone who has reached out to me or spoken with me knows my goal is to educate, to give advice, and to ensure frankly that you manage this whole damn process better than I did, because I was in total denial and in la la land for three and a half years with my head buried in the sand.
I embarrassed my family and made matters measurably worse because of my stupidity and ignorance. I’d do it all differently if I could, and that’s the reason that I’m doing this video. Embrace what’s subjective. Don’t convince yourself that your efforts won’t matter, and do all you can to advocate why you’re worthy of the best outcome.
I set a goal of wrapping up this video six minutes ago. Did you notice I’m still talking? Sometimes I can’t stop talking. It’s a benefit to keep talking when you have to do an eight-hour fraud conference in Arkansas, but it’s not a benefit when your marketing team tells you to do five to seven-minute videos, and I keep talking. It’s not intentional. It’s what I do. At least I’m aware of it. I wish you all well. Subscribe, like, comment, and I hope to connect with you all soon. Thanks so much for your time.
P.S. If you would like to begin preparing, and believe the steps you can take matter, schedule a call here.
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