Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Handling Your New Found Fame


When I was doing my time, someone commented to me that the only people worth knowing inside a camp are those that show up on the first page of Google. Unfortunately, what can give you "prominence" inside can have the opposite affect when the news hits.

Most targets of federal investigations will find that the press will decide to become judge, jury and executioner before any actual indictment has been filed. Individuals, who either lived a life of relative obscurity or who were only known only to industry insiders may suddenly be vaulted into unwanted fame. You do not have to go any further than the last month to find individuals who are suddenly famous. Even someone as notorious as Bernie Madoff was only known to industry insiders until 2008, at which point he became a household name. Just think about Bernie Ebbers, Jeff Skilling, Ken Lay and Dennis Kozlowski. To be sure, these were well known individuals in the corporate world but virtually unknown outside of corporate America. On a smaller scale, this will happen to almost anyone who is involved in a high-profile case or even in a not so high-profile case. Your name will. in all likelihood, be in the local newspaper and quite possibly in a national publication. Your neighbors will know you got indicted. The challenge is how will you deal with your new-found fame.

As one whose named appeared early on, I dealt with many of these challenges. The first piece of advice I will give you is use your lawyers. There will be an urge to "set the record straight", to try and let the reporters know that they have it wrong. You are going to want to plead your case so that the news source writes a favorable article. Big mistake. Exonerating you does not sell newspapers. At the very least, they will twist your words and use the lines that serves their purpose and at worst, you will say something that the prosecutor will be able to use against you at a later date. My advice is if you do pick up the phone so simply hang up or say no comment. Any half decent reporter will be able to find out who your lawyer is, or you can simply instruct the reporter to contact your attorney. If you do not have an attorney yet, then simply hang up or say no comment. No good can come from speaking to the press. As noble and innocent as your intentions may be, your words will likely be misconstrued and twisted to shed you in the most unfavorable light.

Once your name is in the press, you have to figure out how to deal with it. Some people decide that the best approach is to simply become a hermit. This is a bad idea. The best way to try to show people that you are innocent is to go about your life as normally as possible. Hold your head high. How you project yourself will influence how others see you. If you disappear from public eye, you will simply look guilty to those around you. If you go out to eat regularly, continue to do so. If anything, increase the amount of time that you are in the public eye so that you exude an air of confidence. Aside from the impression left on others, barricading yourself at home will cause you to feel depressed, impairing your ability to focus. If you are about to embark on a lengthy legal battle you are going to have to focus and think clearly.

Do not be surprised if there is some social backlash from your newly found fame. You will find out who your real friends are. Your real friends will stand by you no matter what is printed in the daily paper. Anyone who decides to shun you because of what they read in the paper was never really your friend; they just pretended to be because you had something to offer them. The one positive of negative press coverage is that you can find out who your real friends are. At the same time your friends may ask you about your case. You need to handle this delicately for a few reasons. Firstly, your friends may tell others what you say and that may not be conveyed accurately in spite of the fact that it will be attributed to you. Furthermore, anything you tell a friend is not protected by any legal mechanism and if this friend ceases to be one then there is nothing preventing him from reporting what you said to the prosecutors. Often times cases do not hinge on facts; they hinge on interpretations of law. Just because you don't think what you did broke the law doesn't mean the prosecutor will see it the same way. A good friend will respect your reluctance to speak about the controversy surrounding you.

As far as your professional life is concerned, things may not be so simple. Many clients and business associates will cease to be associated with you because of your new-found fame. You have to appreciate their predicament of course. Some of your best friends may be there for you socially but may need to dissociate themselves from you professionally, do not take this personally. When you are faced with it, you may simply ask if there is anything you can do to allay their concerns and then be gracious. If you are not guilty of any crime they will come back and if you have to go away for a bit then they would have had to stop doing business with you anyway, Is it fair? No. It is important to understand the perspective of your business associate. The last thing anyone wants is to needlessly get embroiled in a legal battle,

How you handle the press will affect your family as well. Depending on their ages, they may see the stories online or in the paper. The best approach is to firstly, tell your kids that just because something is written online or the newspaper does not mean it is true. At the same time, you you handle yourself will affect how your family handles themselves. If you exude confidence, they will gain strength from your resilience.  If you get depressed, so will they. Always remember that you have a responsibility to make sure that your family does not needlessly suffer.

Sometimes the best approach is to simply not read the paper or any articles on your case. This is really hard but is likely the healthiest approach. The less you focus on the news, the more mentally healthy you will be. If you are constantly checking Google to find out the latest articles written about you, you will end up driving yourself, and everyone around you, completely crazy. Yes, it is important to know what is going on in your case but unfortunately, most articles these days are simply rumor and innuendo. Believe me, the amount of time you spend reading about yourself online will in no way affect the outcome of your case.

If I may offer a word of comfort, unless you are a truly notorious personality, this will be relatively short lived. Thankfully, the news changes daily and there is always a new, better story. You really are not that important in the overall scheme of things and pretty soon, most of the stories about you will not even be newsworthy enough to print. People also have short memories. Eventually, when this is all over, people will actually have to google you to found out who you are.

*As always, this blog is not meant to dispense legal advice. Any legal questions should be directed toy your attorney.

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