Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York State Assembly, surrendered to federal authorities. He faces a series of corruption charges. Prosecutors allege that he accepted bribes to influence decisions. I met a number of public officials during the 26 years that I served in prison. If Mr. Silver wants the best possible outcome, he should seek guidance from others outside of the legal profession. Certainly, a defense attorney will guide him through the judicial process. Yet when the government indicts an individual, the defendant should educate himself more about the possible devastating outcomes that can follow a conviction.

Some of the publications that reported on Mr. Silver’s indictment suggested that he portrayed himself as being indifferent to the charges. He declared his innocence and vowed that a full hearing would vindicate him against the allegations. That may or may not be true. Either way, Mr. Silver should be cautious about professing his innocence too loudly. Because if a jury convicts him later, a prosecutor and a probation officer will rely upon the defendant’s protestations of innocence to argue for a tougher sentence. They will accuse the politician of lacking remorse. Such allegations can lead to a longer sentence. Further, if he is too outspoken about his innocence, the Bureau of Prisons may construe him as a threat and place him in a higher security prison.

During the 26 years calendar years that I lived as a federal prisoner, I met many men who served longer sentences than they would have served had they remained silent during the pretrial process. I know of one former banker who currently languishes in a high-security penitentiary. The defendant’s response to the allegations against him resulted in several government officials wanting to punish him further. The banker frequently appeared in the media speaking about the injustices of our system and that he didn’t do anything wrong. Whether he did or he didn’t, his response to the criminal allegations resulted in a sentence that is far too longer.

When individual’s face criminal indictments, they should educate themselves on steps they can take to mitigate the damage. At PrisonProfessor.com, we offer guidance that defendants need on sentence mitigation.

 

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