Thursday, October 21, 2004

Real life 

We were talking to a client about pending litigation recently when he told us a story. The client knows a white-collar individual who faced indictment. Attorneys for the individual promised the prosecutor they would bring the individual in when the indictment was rendered. They said he posed no flight risk whatsoever, and he was eager to cooperate. The prosecutor listened, but what did the prosecutor do? He rousted the fellow out, handcuffed him and made him do the "perp walk" into the station house.

As I have written before, prosecutors are tough players in PR. They know the image of an accused individual with arms handcuffed behind him is an important message. "We're tough on crime." They leak to the media when it suits them. They are often unfair in how they treat people and yes, unjust. Few individuals who have been indicted and treated this way have recovered reputations after photos in the newspaper and footage on TV. Even if an indicted individual is proven innocent, people think differently.

We asked our client if he was aware of how the prosecutor behind the upcoming indictment handles publicity. He seemed surprised we would bring that up. We explained how real life works, and what could happen. It turns out the individual's company wasn't ready for the impact of an indictment if a prosecutor plays rough. We suggested he needs a plan.

Never underestimate the power of the law to ruin reputations of innocent individuals and companies.


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