PLEA DEALS ARE JUST THE NEW NORM BECAUSE OF PROSECUTORIAL COERCION.
When we talk about organized crime, believe it or not, there was a time when Plea Deals, were not acceptable under any circumstance. Look at the case of Gene Gotti, Gene Gotti who served 30 years in prison, could have likely plead out, and done 15-20 and gotten out between 10-12 years later. The reality is John Gotti according to the press and others, would NOT allow anyone within the family to accept plea deals, because it was admitting first of all that you did something wrong, and it was also admitting that the "mafia" existed. At least that is what, has been reported throughout the years. No matter what everyone may report the reality of that is that is was Gene's decision to to clam up, and that's what men do. So the idea that John Gotti forcibly made his brother take a pinch for 30 years is ridiculous. It was Gotti who said emphatically, "if they accused me of robbing a church and the steeple was sticking out of my ass, I would still deny it." That's how he lived his life, and stuck to the code. That was the 1990's, and things are entirely different now.
There is no moral barometer for accepting a plea. You can use the Alford plea, which is also called the Kennedy Plea. The Alford plea, is a guilty plea, but it allows for the defendant not to admit to committing any criminal acts, and allows the defendant to assert his/her innocence. The plea also loosely stats that based on the evidence, that a prosecutor would likely be able to convince a judge and or jury that the defendant in the case could be found guilty without a reasonable doubt. In other words, when offering an Alford plea, a defendant asserts his innocence but admits that sufficient evidence exists to convict him of the offense." It's a way to NOT admit to anything, and I should know, I took an Alford plea long ago, and likely that saved me from going to trial and doing a dime plus in prison.
Plea Deal's are the new norm. A recent study from the Pew Research Center, of the roughly 80,000 federal prosecutions initiated in 2018, just two percent went to trial. More than 97% of federal criminal convictions are obtained through plea bargains, and the states are not far behind at 94%. Thew question becomes why are more people not rolling the dice? Easy. Defendants are being coerced. Charge-stacking (charging more or more serious crimes than the conduct really merits), legislatively-ordered mandatory-minimum sentences, pretrial detention with unaffordable bail, threats to investigate and indict friends or family members, and the so-called trial penalty — what the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers called the “substantial difference between the sentence offered prior to trial versus the sentence a defendant receives after a trial.” What was once accepted as accepting a guilty charge meant you did it, courts are finding now, that it's more economically sound to just accept a deal, even if you didn't do it, because some 85% of defendants cannot afford an attorney.
There has been over 300 men released from prison, through the innocence project. Over 30% of prisoners serving time, actually committed no offense. So the old adage of "what ya in for,..I did nothing wrong," is actually more factual than just a line. The other issue with plea agreements is that it completely covers up prosecutorial misconduct. So while plea agreements can help a defendant, it also handicaps them. But because we talk about organized crime, let's go with that.
Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, famed boss of the Genovese crime family, feigned insanity for three decades. Others in the mob couldn't understand how any man can lower himself to that standard, but Gigante, was brighter than those around him. He was more dangerous more calculating, and he also had an incredible run at the top of the mafia because of his antics. Gigante was all in on the ploy, and stuck to his guns.
During the late 80's he was caught leaving his apartment in Manhattan wearing a stained bathrobe, muttering to himself incoherently. FBI agents who were watching him noticed, that underneath the robe, was a dark blue silk suit. Even seeing that wasn't enough for the feds to pounce. They knew he was playing the game. So what did it take for Gigante to get hammered? The feds using the RICO law to go after his family. Gigante wasn't going to buckle or give in, until they threatened to use the Rico law to ensnare his children and grandchildren, which the feds can legally do. It wasn't until then that Gigante fessed up. Without the law, or the coercion of the law and defendants, the Chin would have stayed on the streets without interruption.
In the case of the Philadelphia mafia, from the indictment from last year, we see defendants beginning to consider plea agreements. There are a bunch of different scenarios going on, and I want to show you an example of when you back down, and when you fight.
Take the charges against alleged underboss Stevie Mazzone. While I personally think the charges are a joke, and we have discussed the reasons why, because the charges aren't exactly glue worthy, but because Stevie has prior convictions, it's a delicate situation. I cannot say I know for certain but I logically suspect the feds would bargain with Mazzone for 10-12 year sentence, based on guidelines and past convictions. They are going to want it on the higher end, because after all they want defendants to get the max, so they can pad their conviction rates, but even so, if that's what they are seeking what is he supposed to do? Accept that? They would likely coming in at 12. Almost guarantee it. So if your the defendant, you want to consider pleading out to lesser charges, and end up around 6-8, then you have to do 85% of your federal time, so it means anywhere between 5.5-7, and I think thats the middle ground. It's better than 12, where you are going to do 10.5. Then you consider age here. Stevie is not old, not whatsoever, but a ten year gap sentence here, can be really bad. So a defendant has to weigh the max versus the plea. If the max is say 12 years, given everything, you know what the worst case situation is, then the best situation for you is to hit that middle. Hit that 4-6 or 6-8. If you cannot even get close with an agreement with the feds to hit that, then you might as well fight for all your worth.
Take another situation of another defendant. Never in trouble, never done a day in jail in his life. Takes his first pinch, for joke charges, and let's pretend the feds come in at six for loansharking. Six years? First offense? That's a 2-4 year charge max. So if you know it's a max of six worst case, you might as well fight. If the feds aren't gonna come in under 5, what the hell are you risking? A year is the difference between a halfway house, that's it. There is a time to take plea, and a time not too. If you know the bottom line max, then you roll the dice and fight like hell, you already know the worst case possible. You aren't going to do yourself any favors by allowing them to hammer you. You can under some circumstances control your outcome if you at least know the best or worst.
The Philadelphia indictment has already had some of the defendants agree to deals. There is nothing wrong with that. Where the dicey shit begins is when you have a defendant looking at north of say 12-14, who has nothing to gain by accepting that. That's when the talking beings, good, bad, indifferent, fair or not fair. It's a reality of the streets. I do expect a few more agreements here, but I don't expect one or two to accept any deal unless it totally benefits them. It's going to have to be low time. Between 4-7. Nobody is taking a plea that gives them anymore then 7. That's reality. I just think people have a tendency to look at pleas as giving in, or somehow going against the code, and that's not the case. So it will be interesting to see how this all plays out, but reality is as we have said a million times defendants are handicapped from day one. Until that scale slides left, forget about it.