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Welcome to my blog. For those of you who do not know, I, Michael Szafranski, was recently released from the Federal Prison Camp in Miami, Florida where I spent 11 months. It took six years from the time that I knew I was under investigation to the day I reported to prison. In many ways those six years were worse than the 11 months I actually sat. This blog is going to deal with many of the issues facing people like myself who are just trying to navigate the legal system when they find out they are in trouble and are thrown into the crazy world that is our criminal justice system. My case was kind of high profile so I dealt with it all. I am sharing what I learned so that others will be a little more prepared as to how to deal with various situations and to hopefully shed a little bit of light on what really goes on in the system. Please email me with any questions and if you would like to utilize my consulting services. Appreciate any comments and critiques! Follow along as I publish my book at https://www.wattpad.com/user/whitecollarguru. Email me at mike@whitecollarguru.com with any questions.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth-King Solomon in Our Days

King Solomon at the end of of Ecclesiastes states that in the end, everything is heard. While there have been many Jewish and Christian interpretations to this verse of the past thousands of years, taken at face value, it simply means that nothing stays hidden forever and in the end everything comes out. One has to look any further than the present day to realize that while secrets may remain hidden and while sins may be dormant, ultimately everything comes into view for everyone to see. King Solomon is as right today as he was thousands of years ago when these words were written.

Entertainment, political and athletic icons are falling every day. From Bill Cosby to Charlie Rose, to Al Franken to Matt Lauer to Marshall Faulk, we have seen scions of various sectors go down in blazes of glory in a way not witnessed since in modern history. Sins that have been perpetrated for decades are finally being brought to light. The dirtiest of secrets are being revealed for all to see. Individuals have been living collective lies by maintaining  public personas embodying values and integrity while living private lives bereft of any moral code. Some have gotten away with it for decades and some for only years. However the day of reckoning is upon us and all the sins are finally being revealed.

Now I don't mean to vent about the disgusting behavior of more than a few individuals. No, I mean to relate this to the person who is justifiably in unjustifiably who is caught in the cross hairs of the criminal justice system. The first is just practical advice. Never lie. If a defendant has decided to accept a plea so as to avoid the risks of trial, he needs to get everything out in the open when speaking with the prosecutors. As a practical matter, they have so many resources at their disposal that if a defendant decides to hide something or be less than truthful they will in all likelihood discover the misrepresentation. The negative consequences of these untruths being discovered are real. The prosecutors can revoke a plea or give less favorable terms. If a defendant is hoping for a cooperation reduction in his sentencing that can be taken away as well. Lying to a federal officer is in and of itself a crime. Lastly, once a plea has been agreed upon, for the most part, although check with a lawyer first, anything else revealed will not open a person up to new charges. By way of example, there are many levels of securities fraud. If the defendant is guilty of a worse crime than his plea deal incorporates, the prosecutors generally know about it. They are offering the plea for the same reason the defendant is willing to take it. So when the plea is agreed upon, and the prosecutor asks for the full story, truth is of the essence. 

For someone who is simply being interviewed by the authorities, it is better so say nothing than lie to them. As US citizens we all have the right to remain silent, and that is certainly better than lying and risk being brought up on charges of lying to a federal agent. Lying is also difficult. As I was told during my case, always tell the truth because the truth is light. Once a lie comes out your mouth, you are constantly trying to remember the story and then make up new lies to cover the old lies. This never ends well. Considering the truth will come out eventually, it's better to shut your mouth than try to explain everything away with a lie.

The second point that needs to be made will be of some solace and consolation to anyone who has either been indicted or even ended up going to prison. I maintain that for every person who has been indicted for a crime there are another 100 who can be indicted for a similar crime. Why the government decides to prosecute one person over another is anyone's guess. Sometimes it is political, sometimes it comes down to the evidence, and sometimes it is a matter of laziness. Prosecutors have tremendous leeway when choosing who to prosecute. The Supreme Court set a very high standard and ruled that just because two people commit the same crime does not mean that prosecutors have to charge both of them. The exception would obviously be if the decision to prosecute or not prosecute is based on race, etc. In other words two traders can both obtain insider information and, all things being equal, the prosecution can decide to indict one of them but not the other. 

I have mentioned that there are very few crimes where only one person is involved, even if none of those involved realized that crimes were being committed. Fair or not, not everyone is going to be prosecuted. For the person that ultimately does time in prison, a level of resentment will develop. He will feel that if everyone essentially committed the same act, why is he sitting in prison away from his family when some of his former partners seem to have escaped any threat of prosecution. He will resent it even more if during his time being prosecuted, his former partners decide to engage in a form of revisionist history and decide they were in no way involved. Obviously they need to tell themselves that, but the fact remains that two people were committing an act together that they may or may not know to be illegal and yet, one is sitting in prison and the others are not only avoiding prosecution but are denying that they were ever even associated with him. To make things worse because of the defendants legal situation they will even try to cast themselves off as victims. Of course, he would never try to get them similarly incarcerated, but the resentment remains. 

The reality, however, even if they do not go to prison, they will not be able to hide from their past forever. Eventually, things have a way of coming out and while they may have been able to have their involvement concealed for a time, ultimately it will all be displayed for the public to see. Sometimes this can come in the form of an overzealous reporter and sometimes it can come in the way of an unrelated legal situation. 

My case itself is no different. While not getting into the details of my plea, what I can say for certain was that there were multiple people connected to me that committed the same exact overt acts that I committed and I don't know that any of us thought we were violating the law. There are people who considered themselves victims when in truth, they were anything but. When I was the object of public scrutiny, they did everything in their power to distance themselves from me. Some of these were friends and some of these were merely colleagues. Do I blame them? We I don't know if I blame them but I certainly would not have conducted myself the same way. I still remember someone who called in a drunken state  me on November 1, 2009 and threatened me, claiming I stole his money and yet if anyone deserved to serve time it was him. Yet, he managed to pretend he was a victim. Sure, there were a few who stayed by my side and those are the true friends, but those were clearly the minority.

As it turns out, even these individuals will not be able to hide forever. Many of them were identified in other avenues of the case and were brought into the pubic spotlight then. But when that does not work, a former defendant can simply write a book, which of course what I am doing. Now I am not here to push my book; that will sell itself. What I am here to do is point out that this book will be a tell all. All of these people, those who pretended to be victims while they were not, those who were very happy to be my partners and committed the same acts when things were good but denied any involvement when things went bad will be exposed. Am I being petty? Maybe. The way I look at it, I could have done a lot more damage in 2010. I took the the bulk of the heat and declined to implicate anyone in the civil or criminal avenues. Had I done it then, while it may not have altered the course of the prosecution, more than a couple of careers would have been destroyed. Doing it now will have little if any financial impact. Much of what I will reveal has not been reported anywhere and those individuals have had virtually no public exposure. Until now.

The truth is a funny thing. It never stays hidden forever. There is no one who would want everything about their life revealed; we all have too many secrets. And that is OK. The problem arises when we run from the truth or try to bury it. It is then that the truth, because it is so aggressively suppressed reveals itself with a vengeance. In the end, everything is known.

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