Friday, April 22, 2011

BingoGate: Nice Try, Mr. Espy

image You may have seen this news report from earlier today, where Milton McGregor’s lead attorney claims that the government took advantage of defendant Ronald Gilley’s financial status in order to coax a guilty plea out of him.

Clearly, McGregor himself is digging in and preparing for the long haul. He’s got one of the best defense teams in the Southeastern US and to date, they’ve fought tooth and nail at every turn. In fact, most of the other defense attorneys in the case have followed the McGregor team’s lead in filing motions, requesting hearings and making the government’s life difficult.

But this has the scent of desperation on it.


An attorney for Milton McGregor, Joe Espy, says he believes the federal government took advantage of Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley because he was out of money, in jail and dealing with a sick family member. Espy says McGregor is innocent and looks forward to demonstrating that in a trial beginning June 6.

While defense counsel’s comments might play well to the press, they don’t hold much water in the real world of the Federal Judiciary, and certainly not in the Middle District of Alabama.

When an attorney agrees to represent a client before that Court and files the documentation of his role as a defense attorney, he is promptly notified by the Court in language that is crystal clear:

Retained criminal defense attorneys are expected to make financial arrangements satisfactory to themselves and sufficient to provide for representation of each defendant until the conclusion of the defendant’s case. Unless this court, within fourteen (14) days after arraignment, is notified in writing of counsel’s withdrawal because of the defendant’s failure to make satisfactory financial arrangements, this court will expect counsel to represent the defendant until the conclusion of the case. Failure of a defendant to pay sums owed for attorney’s fees or failure of counsel to collect a sum sufficient to compensate for all the services usually required of defense counsel will not constitute good cause for withdrawal after said ten-day period has expired.

Every defendant has a right to appeal from any conviction; a convicted defendant’s case is therefore not concluded until his direct appeal is decided. Thus, the further expectation of this court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is that retained counsel, in making satisfactory financial arrangements, will contemplate services to be rendered upon appeal.

If a defendant moves the court to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis and/or for appointment of Criminal Justice Act appellate counsel, retained counsel will be required to disclose in camera (1) the total amount of fees and costs paid, (2) by whom fees and costs were paid, and (3) the costs actually incurred and services actually rendered. Note that matters involving the receipt of fees from a client are not generally privileged, United States v. Sims, 845 F.2d 1564 (11th Cir. 1988); In Re Slaughter, 694 F.2d 1258 (11th Cir. 1982); In Re Grand Jury Proceedings: United States  v. Jones, 517 F.2d 666 (5th Cir. 1975). All information submitted will, of course, be viewed in camera by the court for the purpose of deciding the defendant’s in forma pauperis motion. 

Except in extraordinary, unforeseen circumstances, this policy will be strictly adhered to; such circumstances may be brought to the court’s attention by motion to be relieved of the duty to represent the defendant upon appeal.

Gilley may well be out of money. He may also be under emotional and mental duress, and perhaps those circumstances did indeed lead to him to consider caving and entering a guilty plea. But his attorneys were, have been and still will be duty bound to represent him to the fullest extent of their abilities, and God help any lawyer who shirks that responsibility in business before this Court.

Gilley’s pleading guilty because he doesn’t think he stands a chance of acquittal, he has knowledge of the other defendants’ alleged crimes and the government offered him a deal for his testimony.

It’s not good for McGregor, and his lawyers know it.

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