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Broward lawyer has not entered plea agreement

Posted on December 17, 2009 3:00 AM EST

The South Florida lawyer who allegedly committed a $1.2 billion fraud has not entered into a plea agreement at this juncture in his case. Although a federal prosecutor told a judge in a Ft. Lauderdale federal court that a guilty plea was possible. The Miami criminal lawyer representing Scott Rothstein denied that a plea agreement is imminent. Rothstein did not appear at the routine status hearing. He was arrested on December 1, 2009 and charged with money laundering, racketeering and fraud for allegedly running an elaborate "Ponzi" scheme.

The prosecutor represented to the federal court judge that the discovery process has almost been completed. He also told the judge that trial would last approximately 3 weeks. To date Rothstein, is resting on his initial not guilty plea for bilking investors who purchased false legal settlements. However, Rothstein still has only been charged by information which may mean the prosecutors and defense lawyer are in negotiations.

Despite the fact that Rothstein has been arrested, federal investigators continue to scour e-mails, financial documents and other records in their search for co-conspirators. It is likely that the prosecution will not extend any offers to Rothstein until all of the pieces are in place. Until they have all of the players, they are probably unable to determine how they would use Rothstein as a witness and what cooperation he would need to provide. As the mastermind of the scheme, federal prosecutors may not offer a plea agreement if they do not need his testimony to shore up cases against any of the co-conspirators. As a Miami criminal lawyer who has represented dozen of clients in federal court charged with racketeering and fraud, it appears to be too early in the case to enter into plea negotiations. The time for plea negotiations comes after the discovery process is complete.

Evaluating the evidence in the case is imperative before decided whether plea negotiations should occur or whether the case should be geared up for trial. As an outsider without privy to the discovery, it is difficult to evaluate the case. However, at the onset of the case several text messages from Rothstein to his law partners apologizing for what he has done certainly does not help his case. Rothstein may also have provided a statement to law enforcement which may be admissible. One can only expect that his defense attorney invoked his client's right to remain silent. Any defense lawyer worth a nickel will always advise his client to remain silent unless immunity is given by way of a signed contract.

Whether someone is being investigated or has been arrested for any crime, including cocaine trafficking, racketeering or fraud, never speak to law enforcement about the facts of the case. Even if the statement is self-serving and denies any involvement in the purported crime, it could still be damaging. It is imperative to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent your interests. Never try to go it alone.

Prosecutor Hints Plea Deal is Possible in Scott Rothstein Case, MiamiHerald.com, December 17, 2009.
Categories: Fraud