Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Special Challenges In White Collar Crime Prosecutions

As a former federal prosecutor who primarily handled major white collar crime prosecutions, I enjoyed the challenge of putting together a "mega case."  However, trust me, being a federal prosecutor isn't all fun and games!  In this blog, I have periodically described some of the special challenges faced by federal prosecutors in high profile cases.  Today, I want to focus on just one of those challenges:  the day-to-day stress and psychological challenges faced by Assistant U.S. Attorneys in long-term criminal investigations.
I realize that was a mouthful!  Let me try to explain this challenge more simply like this!  In a long-term federal criminal investigation, which can last for months, or even years, a federal prosecutor must deal with a host of issues.  For example, an A.U.S.A. may face, on a daily basis, among other issues, inter-agency squabbles, agent egos, a nosy news media, or supervisory pressures, and all without any end to the ordeal being in sight!  When you begin a mega case, you have no idea how long it may take.  It will end, perhaps months, or even years later, only when you, the lead prosecutor, decide you have enough evidence to seek an indictment. 
In contrast, most state prosecutions are of short duration.  In other words, as a state prosecutor, you quickly get your cases over and done with, and then go on to the next criminal case.  Put another way, as a state prosecutor, you fry your small fish and, win, lose, or draw, at least you get closure.  However, a lengthy federal prosecution, which may involve a federal grand jury investigation, can sometimes seem like a long, never-ending nightmare with no closure in sight! 
For example, I once led a task force of federal and state agents while investigating a high profile white collar crime target.  This one case was basically my full-time job for a couple of years.  But for much of the first year, I had almost daily arguments with one of the agents assigned to the case.  It was very stressful!  In my opinion, the agent was lazy and refused to follow directions.  And until my other agents took up the slack, and got the job done, I was forced to deal with this stress of dealing with that lazy agent on a daily basis. 
But please don't get me wrong!  In spite of all the stressors inherent in leading the charge as a federal prosecutor, I loved the job!  There are no other jobs in the world with the same unique challenges and in which you can sometimes make a real difference!

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