Monday, December 31, 2012

A Rant About the U.S. Department of Justice, Prosecutorial Priorities, and Small Potatoes

[U.S. Department of Justice photo from wikipedia]
As a former federal prosecutor for over 20 years and, currently, as an Augusta, GA criminal defense lawyer who regularly handles federal criminal cases, I have seen a number of changes in federal court over the years. Most of them are good. By and large, I still maintain that most federal prosecutors do a good job and that DOJ generally does an effective job of handling the prosecution of federal crimes. In short, I am still proud of my career as an AUSA and the fine job they do!

But I have noticed one disappointing trend which I wanted to blog about today. This trend involves some U.S. Attorney's Offices focusing more and more on "adopting" relatively small state criminal cases and "taking them federal," i.e. prosecuting small cases in federal court that do not belong there. In other words, in my opinion, generally, in the past, the feds focused more on larger, more complex federal cases. Today, on the  other hand, I believe some U.S. Attorneys' Offices are handling more and more relatively smaller criminal cases. Why is this so?

In my opinion, there are a number of reasons for this troubling trend. For example, some federal prosecutors find it easier to adopt and indict relatively simple state cases, instead of handling more intense federal grand jury investigations and putting together more complex federal cases from the ground up. Having handled a number of "mega" federal fraud and public corruption investigations and cases, as a former career federal prosecutor, I know fully well how difficult and time-consuming they can be to put together. But that is no excuse for AUSAs not to focus on them!

Another reason for this change in focus, in my opinion, toward smaller federal cases, originates with DOJ in Washington, D.C. In short, the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys generally grades each U.S. Attorney's Office performance based upon the number of criminal cases prosecuted, instead of the size of the cases prosecuted. As a result, in my opinion, the various U.S. Attorney Offices around the country are, in effect, encouraged to take on more smaller, quicker prosecutions than on the more labor-intensive "mega" cases. But, in my opinion, one "mega" fraud case, which can yield millions in fines and restitution for federal programs, is often worth more than fifty "small potato" prosecutions!

Shouldn't the feds focus more on the "mega" fraud cases and leave the smaller potatoes for the states to handle? What do you think?

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Sad Reality About Postal Employee Thefts and the Holidays

[Photo of Postal Delivery Truck from wikipedia]
As Christmas approaches, are you expecting to receive gift cards or money in the mail from family members? Well, frankly, we all must face the fact that, for various reasons, the mail does not always reach its destination, even at Christmas. 

As a former federal prosecutor, here, in Augusta, Georgia, I sometimes prosecuted mail thefts by U.S. Postal Service employees. Some cases involved simple thefts of newspapers or magazines. Other thefts included income tax refund checks and other valuables sent through the mail. But generally all such thefts involve a horrible abuse of a position of trust.

According to various news reports, during six months of 2012, 171 Postal employees around the country were charged with theft or destruction of U.S. mail. In one recent case, in an Atlanta federal court, Gerald Eason, a postal supervisor at an Atlanta mail distribution facility, was prosecuted, along with four co-workers, for reportedly stealing $3 million in U.S. Treasury checks, including folks' V.A. and Social Security checks.

So, while you may be expecting a gift in the mail this Christmas from grandma, please realize that, sadly, it simply might never reach your mailbox! Unfortunately, no one is immune from white collar crime, even during the holidays.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Goolsby Law Firm Brag Board

[Photo of the Goolsby Law Firm, 233 Davis Rd., Augusta, GA]
Recently, I included a post in which I bragged about my second son Blake's passing the Georgia bar exam and joining our Augusta, Georgia family law firm. Today, I hope you don't mind that, as a proud father, I once again want to brag a little bit--this time about my third son, Zachary. Zach is home for Christmas break and has now passed the midway point of law school! 

In other words, Zach has three semesters down and only three more semesters to go until graduation! Then, I believe we will be the only law firm in the history of the State of Georgia composed of a parent and three children--practicing law together--who are attorneys!

As Augusta, GA lawyers, we primarily handle divorces, child custody cases, adoptions, personal injury cases, and criminal cases, in both state and federal court. I believe I am the only former twenty year federal prosecutor in the Augusta and Evans, Georgia area. I have handled some of the largest, most complex fraud and public corruption cases in Georgia and U.S. history.

My first two lawyer sons, Richard (Ric) Goolsby, Jr. and Blake Goolsby, with whom I presently practice law in Augusta, both graduated from Mercer Law School. My third son, Zach Goolsby, presently attends the University of Georgia School of Law, which is where I also graduated. He and I will be the two "Double Dawgs" in our family law firm!

So, thank you for understanding and allowing me--a proud father--to brag once again! 

Congrats, Zach! We are very proud of you and look forward to your joining us at The Goolsby Law Firm! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

HSBC Banking Company Settles With DOJ

[Photo of HSBC's London Headquarters from wikipedia]
Although I am a former federal prosecutor, (and also, currently, an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer), I have also taught criminal justice courses part-time at a local university. One of the topics which we recently discussed in my course about White Collar Crime dealt with whether or not some white collar corporate defendants in some cases can unfairly avoid criminal liability -- for the corporation and/or its officers -- by simply paying a fine. In other words, do some white collar criminals get away with fraud and corruption with just a slap on the wrist in the form of a monetary penalty?

Have you read about the case involving HSBC, one of the world's largest banking companies, which is headquartered in Great Britain? According to various news reports, HSBC has been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly laundering or transferring funds from Mexican drug cartels and for allegedly transferring funds to benefit Iran, in alleged violations of various sanctions. While everyone is entitled to their day in court, and while everyone should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, these are some pretty serious allegations, don't you agree?

Today, according to various news reports, HSBC is reportedly entering into a "deferred prosecution agreement" with the U.S. Department of Justice, whereby prosecution of HSBC and its executives will apparently be deferred, or avoided, and HSBC will simply pay a whopping $1.9 billion penalty.

Look, let's be fair: no one here is saying that any particular individuals in that situation should be prosecuted. We do not know all the facts. And no one should be judged based upon some news reports. And no one can fairly claim that $1.9 billion is merely a slap on the corporate wrist.

But the question still remains, as we discussed in my college class: Generally, do you believe that, in some criminal cases, (without focusing on that one), some corporations and corporate executives can avoid jail time by simply paying their way out of problems? Are there different standards or considerations in white collar crime, as opposed to street crime? What is your opinion?