Our client was charged with the Distribution of a Controlled Substance Analog in the United States District Court of the Northern District of Illinois. He was charged with selling a compound very similar to a scheduled controlled substance, in the form of synthetic marijuana. A young man bought synthetic marijuana in a shop in Aurora, which had been produced by our client’s former business partner in the offense. The young man consumed the synthetic marijuana despite warnings not to do so, and drove his car at 90mph in a residential area before crashing into a house and being killed on impact. According to the deceased victim’s mother, he was a wonderful young man and she could not recall him ever doing anything wrong.
In the federal criminal system, the charge of Distribution of a Controlled Substance Analog is a serious charge that carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison. But the statute is only one part of the sentencing parameters; a complex calculation is made under the United States Sentencing Guidelines to determine, based on the offense itself and the defendant’s criminal background, what sentencing range is advisable. The Guidelines are advisory, but most judges still sentence within the Guidelines.
Our client hired Wigell Criminal Defense to represent him in this case before he was formally charged. We armed him with an Assertion of Rights document, which functions as a shield between the person being investigated and all law enforcement agencies that are involved. Immediately after, we initiated contact with the federal prosecutor who was about to charge him with a federal crime. This is important to do because it plants the seeds that grow to a favorable result at the end of the case, at sentencing.
It did so in this case. Our client, despite receiving the Assertion of Rights, instructed us to cooperate fully with the Government. A father himself, he had learned that a young man had died and he wanted to be able to bring the family justice and peace through his continued cooperation.
Negotiations commenced prior to our client being charged with a crime, which is somewhat unusual. Our client turned over all pertinent records to the federal agents and federal prosecutors, and explained is role in the offense and everything he knew about his former business partner and their dealings. Partly because of our client, who Wigell Criminal Defense painstakingly prepared and then debriefed after every interaction with the federal government, DEA agents were able to arrest at least three other co-defendants who played a role in the young man’s death at the time of the car crash.
Negotiations are delicate, and there is no template approach. Although they usually occur after a person has been charged, this is not always the case. Early, prompt, and complete cooperation meant that senior attorney, Raymond Wigell, was in a stronger position to have influence over which charges were filed against our client, and which charges our client ultimately pled guilty to. Due to such detailed and meticulous work staging all the meetings and proffers with the government, Wigell Criminal Defense was able to properly position the case to resolve it with the least amount of prison time as possible. Although a plea agreement was negotiated with the Government, the sentencing range was still very much the subject of argument.
The advised Guideline range, according to court filings and calculations, was 70-87 months in prison. The Government, citing the fact that our client had cooperated so quickly and so comprehensively, recommended a sentence of only 35 months in prison.
Our lengthy interactions with our client had enabled us to know his true character, and we were well aware of the depth of his cooperation. For this reason, we believed that we had strong holistic arguments for a sentence less than the Government’s already reduced recommendation. At Wigell Criminal Defense, we believe in holistic approaches that take into account the entirety of the person and their life story. A person’s history, characteristics, and an explanation as to why they may have committed an offense, are very important when it comes to federal sentencing. To the court, they put the client in a stronger position to get a lower sentence.
It seems counterintuitive, but is not, to a range in the plea agreement, and at the sentencing hearing, argue for a sentence toward the low end of that range. In many circumstances, it requires very little work or creativity to do so. But to try to maximize a client’s position and get him the lowest sentence possible, an attorney has to put a lot of work into doing a thorough mitigation intake and preparing a detailed sentencing memorandum presenting all of it properly to the judge.
With multiple and regular meetings with our client, attorneys Raymond Wigell and Huma Rashid drafted a detailed sentencing memorandum that explored the client’s life history, including his traumatic childhood abuse, the process through which he became a productive American citizen, his beautiful family, and his full cooperation with the government.
After hearing all arguments, the federal judge ordered a sentence of 30 months, which was below the Government’s request of 35 months and well below the plea agreement range of 70-87 months.
Our client was very grateful that the sentence was 6 months less than the Government’s request, and less than half of the range in the plea agreement.
Thanks to the detailed mitigation work and the holistic defense strategies employed, as well as taking advantage of an opportunity to cooperate before other criminal defendants in the scheme did so, Wigell Criminal Defense was able to save our client several years of his life in federal prison.