Protip: Never Willingly Talk To The Feds. Ever.
July 10, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — Just don’t do it. Attorneys tell their clients not to talk to the feds. Shoot, for that matter, they tell their family, friends, and anyone else who will listen not to talk to the feds or the police. They do not intend to help you, unless you count an all expenses paid trip to prison for up to five years as help.
The thing is, people who should know better, like police, lawyers, and politicians, rarely follow that advice.
Dennis Hastert, the former Speaker of the House, has been indicted for talking (and allegedly lying) to the FBI. In Hawaii, 77-year-old* reserve police officer Joe Becera pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in a police civil rights violation case. In New York, Seneca tribal politican Bergal Mitchell III is facing five years in prison for lying to the feds over theft from the Seneca Gaming Commission. In Dallas, career politician John Wylie Price’s associate, Helen Tantillo, is accused of lying during the FBI probe of alleged corruption.
You know, it isn’t necessarily the original crime that will trip you up. It is the lie. The feds may never have enough evidence to prove a criminal act on the initial investigation, but they can damn sure put you away if you talk to them and tell them anything that is not true. Or they can use it to pressure you to testify against their target, like the FBI is doing with the Price investigation.
You won’t even realize what they are doing. I was never a fed, but I’ve talked to hundreds of suspects, from thieves to burglars, from child abusers, from fraud suspects, etcetera. I told every one of them the same thing, that I wanted to help them to help themselves. That they would feel better if they got the matter off their chest. That they were a good person who, if they told their side of the story, might have a very good reason for stealing or committing whatever crime they had committed. That if they didn’t have anything to hide, they would talk to me.
You see, police and the feds are trained on something called kinesic-interviewing, commonly known as the “Reid” technique. Police are taught to look for specific signs, or indications of truthfulness or deception, and you follow a specific program to get where you need to go. Once you get their participation, if they are guilty, you can usually get them to admit their guilt, many times without the suspect even realizing what they are doing. You see, most people want to tell their side of the story.
I was very good at getting their side of the story (well, not as good as one of the other guys, but he was amazing). And then, after suspects told us what happened and we thanked him for being honest with us, we would get arrest warrants based on their confession and charge them with the crime that they had committed.
Or, in the feds’ case, figure out what the lie was and prosecute them for that. Most of the time, the trip-up came from a fact already known by the agents, but asked to see how the suspect would respond. The more incriminating or embarrassing, the more likely they would lie about it. Bingo.
That’s why criminal defense lawyers will always have some clients. Because some people, no matter what you tell them, can’t control themselves and talk to the police and the feds. Because they are just there to help us.
* What a 77-year-old is doing as a reserve police officer at that age is another issue, but not one for this article.
Main image via Flickr/Krystian Olszanski