The awful pressure to plead guilty, brought on by the significantly enhanced sentences that the Government often seeks where a defendant asserts his right to a trial, is highlighted in the media in drug cases, as here: Prosecutors Draw Fire for Sentences Called Harsh. For white-collar defendants — businesspeople who may be otherwise wholly unacquainted with the criminal justice system — the combination of mandatory minimums, ardent prosecutors and a public consciousness that prefers to blame for their woes abstractions (“Wall Street” or “the accountants” or “bankers”) rather than individual choices means that going to trial is almost impossible. Plus, the costs can be prohibitive.
Indeed, when a federal judge says in public that the wrong people decide who goes to prison, things have come to a head. There is a move afoot in Congress to address sentencing, but it’s focused primarily on drugs. Maybe, though, reform will trickle up to the businessperson’s case.