Thursday, May 07, 2009

Letter from Letten: "Lawyer Up!"

UPDATE: False alarm?

I can back up Dambala. It seems a lot of people are saying that Mayor Nagin has indeed received a "target letter" from US Attorney Jim Letten.

But what exactly is a target letter?

Here's an interesting article at TalkLeft.

I'm beginning to see some people, including at least one news service, misapply the term "target letter." Just so it's clear, a "target letter" is what the prosecutor provides to a witness who has been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. It is an advisement of rights, particularly the right to counsel and the right to not testify.

Once the investigation is complete and the grand jury has heard all the evidence and is about to return Indictments, target letters are no longer used. [ Addition by LNILR: They are not re-issued everytime a witness/target comes in. Any competent defense lawyer has already met with the prosecutor to learn the client's status and role in the alleged offense under investigation. Target letters go out after the targets and subjects are identified by the prosecutor and investigators. The investigation may be years old before target letters go out. A "target letter" is just what it implies: You are likely going to be indicted, and you better act accordingly.]

Once an indictment is returned, the Prosecutor may notify the lawyer for the indicted person to make agreements on whether a summons will issue or arrest warrants, and, if it's going to be an arrest warrant, whether the person will be allowed to surrender at the courthouse or FBI office rather than be arrested at home or at work and bail amounts can be agreed upon. At this point, the case is past the "target letter" stage. The notification of indictment and arranging surrender can be formal (by letter) or by a telephone call.

Wow. So Mr. Ray Nagin is going to have to scramble to find a white collar defense attorney. How many of those haven't already been snatched up? Might be slim pickings... This is why it was so bizarre that he hadn't already retained private council in this matter, instead choosing to continue to rely on city attorneys Bob Ellis and Penya Moses-Fields, who are representing the municipality in an official capacity.

Also, here's a sample target letter from the Department of Justice website:

This letter is supplied to a witness scheduled to appear before the federal Grand Jury in order to provide helpful background information about the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury consists of from sixteen to twenty-three persons from the District of ___. It is their responsibility to inquire into federal crimes which may have been committed in this District.

As a Grand Jury witness you will be asked to testify and answer questions, and to produce records and documents. Only the members of the Grand Jury, attorneys for the United States and a stenographer are permitted in the Grand Jury room while you testify.

We advise you that the Grand Jury is conducting an investigation of possible violations of federal criminal laws involving, but not necessarily limited to *. You are advised that the destruction or alteration of any document required to be produced before the grand jury constitutes serious violation of federal law, including but not limited to Obstruction of Justice.

You are advised that you are a target of the Grand Jury's investigation. You may refuse to answer any question if a truthful answer to the question would tend to incriminate you. Anything that you do or say may be used against you in a subsequent legal proceeding. If you have retained counsel, who represents you personally, the Grand Jury will permit you a reasonable opportunity to step outside the Grand Jury room and confer with counsel if you desire.


Feel free to sign cordially in the comments section...


GentillyGirl said...

And another bites the dust.

Damian said...

What an astounding development.


Damian said...

Update: I just checked American Zombie, who is denying this rumor is true:

" rumour quelling
No target letter was sent to Nagin. But something went down...not sure what....he is, in fact, lawyering up."

So perhaps it's a bit early to be cordial.