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 Sentence Mitigation Strategies that Get You Leniency 

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Michael Santos

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Andrew Casperson needed an effective sentence mitigation strategy. Prosecutors accused him of coordinating a $38 million Ponzi scheme. He pleaded guilty to the crime. His victims included family and friends. At sentencing, prosecutors urged the judge to sentence Mr. Caspersen to 188 months, nearly 16 years. Judge Jed Rakoff sentenced him to 48 months, about 25 percent of what prosecutors requested.

At first glance, Mr. Caspersen didn’t seem a likely candidate for leniency. He held an undergraduate degree from Princeton and a law degree from Harvard. His family had given him extraordinary privilege. Yet rather than Luke’s admonishment “to whom much is given, much will be required,” Mr. Caspersen’s guilty plea suggests that he failed to prove worthy of his many advantages.

Defendants with pedigreed background frequently have an uphill battle to climb at sentencing. Yet Mr. Caspersen successfully overcame the hurdle by using an effective strategy from the start. Rather than forcing prosecutors to prove his guilt for charges of fraud, he thought creatively about how to resolve the problems in the best possible way.

Instead of hiring a cadre of aggressive trial attorneys to defend himself against the charges, he invested in a strong sentence mitigation team. That team didn’t only include defense attorneys. It included experts from every sector, including prison consultants.

What is Sentence Mitigation?

Mr. Caspersen team of advisors had expertise with every aspect of the system. Those stakeholders include the federal judge that would sentence him, the prosecutor that would argue for the toughest sentence, the probation officer that would write a presentence investigation report influencing his sentencing and prison experience, prison officials that would place him in confinement, and the probation officer that would supervise his release after his prison term ended.

By bringing experts together from every sector, Mr. Caspersen broadened his understanding of the system. Together with his team of advisors, he crafted a strategy that would lead to the lowest possible sentence in the best possible environment. That didn’t mean avoiding prison. Rather, his strategy would result in tempering justice with mercy.

Those who want to position themselves for the lowest possible sentence, regardless of what background they’re from, must create an effective sentencing narrative. That narrative should persuade all stakeholders why the defendant is worthy of mercy.

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