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Your Federal Judge. The most important moment in your life.

Updated: May 28

How often will you find yourself standing before a judge, pleading for them to see the best in you, overlook the bad, and determine your fate?

Once was more than enough for me.

Hopefully, you have someone giving you solid advice on this topic.

You hope the judge will scrutinize your case as if it were the most significant one to grace their court, that they'll take the time to read all the letters penned on your behalf ... That they'll be in a receptive mood, eager to hear your side.

But, let's face it, it's not very likely. The reality is much less optimistic.  Judges are only human, after all. They'll skim through some letters and only get a glimpse of your life story. So, you must realize that time is limited, and you must make every second count.

My greatest regret during my incarceration process is how ill-prepared I was to address my judge.

After the trial, I hired a new representation; I couldn’t believe we lost.  My new attorney was supposed to be a ROCKSTAR....brilliant arguer (after all, he argued in front of the Supreme Court).  I spent 25k on flying this “brilliant,” attorney to San Diego.   Despite his reputation for sharpness, he fell short when it came to preparation.  As we were waiting in a room attached to the court my attorney looked up from his phone and said something to the effect “if you want to say something to the judge you can.”   WHAT?????? That's his well-thought-out advice.....his game-time crucial advice....BRUTAL. His only contribution before arguably the most critical stage for me to make an impact on this process was a casual remark: "Wow, I am paying money for that advice."

He may know the law but he arguably didn’t know that the process I was walking into was the portion he should have been earning his money preparing me for.  But sadly, most attorneys feel their job ends after the legal portion is done. 

That’s the problem.  That's just a fraction of the journey. My lawyer should have advised me on how important the next part was…. he doesn’t have to be an expert on what to say.  But how can they not know how important this next part is.  I should have spent weeks preparing and discussing the best way to communicate my experiences and life to the judge. Instead, I spent $25k for an attorney to fly to San Diego and play on his phone.

Unfortunately, when I addressed the judge, I was unprepared and said nothing memorable. It was dreadful. When my sentence was discussed, the prosecutor rightly pointed out that I showed no remorse, that "he didn't have anything to say." She correctly pointed out how off guard I was.  My lack of preparation was epic. Frankly, she was astonished. She knew I was intelligent, and my unpreparedness was a surprise. 

At the time, I was dumbfounded.

Why did the federal prosecutor highlight that I didn't say anything to my judge?

I don’t fully realize the answer until months after my incarceration ended.  The prosecutor knew I missed an incredible opportunity to discuss everything I had done to better myself since the charges. I had accomplished so much, yet I didn't share any of it with the judge.

It's like training for a marathon every day, only to sit on the couch and watch it from TV.

So, my point is, seize the limited opportunities you have with your judge. They'll only catch glimpses of your life at best. It's your job to make them see the story you want them to see. I can't guarantee judges will let you give a dissertation, but to this day, I can't believe that for all the intelligence attorneys supposedly possess they have such little clue when it comes to controlling your outcome after you are found guilty.  It’s just the beginning. 

My father is an attorney (civil), and I've studied the law extensively, so I'm not just bashing attorneys. They have their uses.

However, find an attorney who supports you taking an active role in advocating for the best prison sentence possible.  

At the end of my trial, my judge stated she didn't think it likely I had actual knowledge regarding the crime I was originally charged with, but she said I was guilty of plenty (and she was right). I had messed up royally. You don’t get many chances with your judge. There are countless directions you can take, but if you want the possibility of a better outcome/shorter prison sentence, I urge you to be prepared. How have you improved your life since the charges were laid? How will you make amends to those you've harmed? Why should they believe you won't repeat your mistakes?

And remember, these judges have heard it all. So, what sets your situation apart? How will you stand out? Something to ponder.

I will forever lament not having a speech prepared for my judge. How did I not prepare for such an incredible opportunity? I could blame my attorney (who was unquestionably a massive letdown, impossible to contact, and a waste of money), but ultimately, the fault lies with me. I should have asked myself a simple question: Was I as prepared as I should have been for one of the most important moments of my life?  After all, we're talking about my life here!! Apart from committing the crime in the first place, failing to seize this critical opportunity to shape my judge's opinion of me .... is my biggest regret.

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1 Comment

May 19

This is brilliant. You are such a gifted writer. I hope more people discover your blogs. Thanks for continuing to share such amazing info. Godbless you & your family.

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