Indictment against FIFA officials

A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of New York has returned a 47-count indictment against 14 individuals, including high-ranking officials of FIFA.  The charges include racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies.

From the New York Times:

“The Department of Justice indictment names 14 people on charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. In addition to senior soccer officials, the indictment also named sports-marketing executives from the United States and South America who are accused of paying more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media deals associated with major soccer tournaments.”

Read the article here.

Read the DOJ press release here.

Expunging or Sealing Your Arrest Record in Washington, DC

“The law says that a discharge from the courts leaves one’s character clean.” – Socrates

Unfortunately, this piece of ancient wisdom does not always hold true today.  If you have been arrested or charged with an offense that you were not convicted of, many people will assume you were guilty, including potential employers.

Luckily for those charged or arrested in Washington, DC, the district has a relatively generous law for expunging or “sealing” cases that did not result in conviction.  The governing statute, which you can find online, is D.C. Code 16-802.

The easiest way to seal your record is on “grounds of actual innocence.”  To seal your record this way, you must convince the court that you were actually innocent of the crime charged.  For example, if you were found not guilty at trial, the transcript of proceedings may be sufficient to show your actual innocence.  If the case never went to trial, an sworn affidavits of testimony may also suffice.

If you are not able to demonstrate actual innocence, you may still be able to seal your record if the offense charged was a misdemeanor (rather than a felony).  However, you will have to wait either two or three years to file your motion to seal, depending on the offense charged.

Please take note – sealing a criminal record in Superior Court is time consuming.  It can take many months to get your motion through, even if your case is solid.  So, if you think you may be applying for a new job at some point, do not wait until a few weeks before to seal your record.

This post should provide a good general overview of the district’s law on sealing arrest records, but there are details that come up in certain cases that could not be covered here.  If you would like to discuss sealing your record with an attorney, please contact us.

Taking the Fifth Amendment as a Witness Before a Federal Grand Jury

If you are subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury, one important question is whether you can or should invoke your fifth amendment right against self incrimination.

The Fifth Amendment is one of the most famous provisions of the constitution.  It protects people from being forced to give testimony that could later be used to prosecute them.  But how does invoking the Fifth Amendment before a federal grand jury work?

To begin with, it’s important to remember that even if you are innocent of any wrongdoing, you may still have reason to invoke the fifth amendment.  If your testimony could be conceivably used to prosecute you, even if such prosecution would not be meritorious, you can invoke the fifth.

How do you know if your testimony is potentially incriminating?  The only way to figure this out is to discuss your potential testimony with a federal criminal defense attorney.  Your attorney can tell you whether all or part of your testimony might be incriminating.

Let’s say you decide to claim the fifth, what happens then?  In most cases, you will still have to offer at least some testimony to the grand jury, because the privilege will exist with respect to some areas of questioning but not others.

When you do testify, your attorney will not be present in the grand jury room.  Defense lawyers are not allowed, and the prosecutor will be running the show.  You should prepare with your attorney ahead of time to recognize the potentially incriminating questions when the prosecutor asks them.  If you are in doubt about whether to answer a question, ask to leave the jury room to consult with your attorney.

If have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal criminal grand jury, and would like to discuss these issues with an attorney, please contact us anytime.

The federal grand jury

Most people have a general familiarity with the function of federal grand juries, but how exactly do they work?  If you or someone you know is involved in a federal criminal investigation, the details of grand juries can be very important.

The basic function of the federal grand jury is to bring federal criminal charges.  The grand jury consists of at least 16 people to examine evidence in support of a potential charge.  To return an indictment, at least 12 of the jurors must vote in favor.

In order to obtain the evidence it needs, the grand jury has the power to subpoena evidence and compel testimony from witnesses.  This is why the term “grand jury investigation” is often used to refer to the work that grand juries do.

An important fact about grand juries is that the defendant, or the defendant’s attorney, is not allowed to present evidence or argument to the jurors.  The entire process is controlled by the United States Attorney (i.e. federal prosecutor) who is in charge of the investigation.  What is the result of this imbalance?  Unsurprisingly, federal grand juries almost always return indictments (i.e. federal criminal charges) when requested to do so by the prosecutor in charge.

The foregoing is only the briefest of overviews of federal grand jury investigations.  If you have other questions on this topic, please contact us.

Pretrial Release in Federal Criminal Cases

If you or someone you know is facing, or may face, federal criminal charges, the first question is often: how to obtain pretrial release?

If you know the federal criminal charges are coming in advance, your criminal attorney may be able to arrange for you to turn yourself in at a specific time and be released promptly.  However, in the case of a sudden arrest, securing pretrial release is a lengthier process.

Those arrested by federal law enforcement are entitled to a prompt “detention” hearing before a federal magistrate judge.  At the hearing, the magistrate judge will decide whether to release the defendant pretrial and, if so, under what conditions.

The judge’s decision making process is guided by a federal law called the Bail Reform Act.  The act directs the judge to consider facts relevant to pretrial release such as the defendant’s criminal history and the facts of the case insofar as they are known at that time.  If the magistrate judge decides not to release the defendant, that judge’s decision can be appealed to a district judge, or even to the Court of Appeals.

If you or someone you know becomes involved in a federal criminal case, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you prepare the most powerful case possible in favor of pretrial release.

If you have other questions about the pretrial release process in federal courts, please visit our website or contact us.

Appealing Your Criminal Conviction to the DC Court of Appeals

If you or someone you know has been convicted of a criminal offense in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, you might consider appealing that conviction to DC’s appellate court.  Here is an overview of the steps in that process:

The first step is fling a Notice of Appeal in the Superior Court within thirty days of your conviction.  After the notice is filed, the clerk of the Superior Court will compile the Appellate Record – the trial court records of the case proceedings – and transmit it to the Court of Appeals.

While the Appellate Record is being compiled, the court reporter who worked your case will produce a Official Transcript of the proceedings.  It will be sent to the Court of Appeals as well.

Once the Court of Appeals receives the record and the transcript, it will set a deadline for your attorney to file the Opening Brief.  The opening brief is a document which explains to the Court the reasons why your conviction should be reversed.  Typically, the opening brief will raise legal errors which your trial judge made.  Common sources of legal error include: decisions to admit or exclude evidence; jury instructions; denials of a motion for judgment of acquittal; or other legal rulings by the judge.

The government (represented by the US Attorney’s Office or Office of the Attorney General, depending on the type of case) will then file a Response Brief, arguing in support of the challenged decisions by the trial court.  Your attorney will then be able to file a Reply Brief, responding to the government’s arguments.

In many cases, the Court will then set a date for Oral Argument.  At this oral argument, a three judge panel of the Court will hear argument from counsel for both sides about the issues presented in the case.

Finally, the Court will issue an Order or Opinion deciding the case.  Hopefully, the Court has been persuaded by your counsel’s arguments and will reverse your conviction, or grant the other relief you are seeking.

Make no mistake – even with first rate representation appeals are tough to win.  However, the Court of Appeals can and will reverse in a case where serious legal errors have been committed.

If you have other questions about appealing your DC Superior Court conviction to the DC Court of Appeals, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.