Stevie J. Tries Out a Classic Criminal Defendant Bad Idea
September 7, 2016 (Fault Lines) — When he’s not busy being a reality show star, it seems Stevie J. likes making really bad decisions when it comes to his criminal child support case:
“Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta” star Stevie J. says he wants to have a “heart-to-heart” talk with the prosecutor handling his criminal child support case.
Stevie J.’s is a classic request, one that every criminal defense attorney hears from clients frequently. Except in the rarest cases, though, a competent attorney will always tell the client it won’t be productive, and the client will, mostly, listen.
Whether the request comes from a narcissistic client so enamored with himself that he believes he can talk his way out of trouble altogether or a reasonable client genuinely being treated unfairly and having a hard time understanding how a prosecutor could really be so uncaring, it just isn’t the sort of thing that’s going to help. Not only do most criminal defendants not know the first thing about effectively negotiating with prosecutors in a criminal case, but even if they did, there’s a high likelihood the emotions they undoubtedly feel would impair their ability to do it right in the situation at hand. Also, prosecutors are typically emotional types, and for many prosecutors, the mere fact someone is the target of the prosecution can automatically destroy any credibility they might have otherwise brought to the table in negotiation.
The likelihood that a prosecutor is going to not care about a defendant’s pleas is often directly proportionate to the crime and the defendant’s behavior during the case too, which is an area where Stevie J. doesn’t seem to have done himself any favors:
Stevie J., whose real name is Steven Jordan, was in court Tuesday morning fighting prosecutors’ request he be jailed until trial — for repeatedly failing drug tests while out on bail, they said
Clean drug tests are a condition of Jordan’s release.
Prosecutors also claimed Jordan missed tests and court-ordered counseling.
Stevie J. is accused of not paying child support. On top of that, it was supposedly bad enough to merit a federal criminal case, something relatively few alleged deadbeat dads find themselves facing. He’s already at a disadvantage, and his celebrity is probably only hurting him. Failed drug tests and missed drug tests and counseling make it worse.
The prosecutor no doubt knows Stevie J. is a minor celebrity of sorts. He also probably knows not just that cocaine is illegal, but that it isn’t free. Prosecutors tend to get pissed when they see someone charged with a financial crime spend money on things, especially illegal things. They obviously get mad about people not following court orders too. The prosecutor no doubt views Stevie J. as a guy who messed up and keeps messing up and who now wants special treatment in the form of a one-on-one conversation. Just asking for it under those circumstances probably does some damage to the defense’s options.
Stevie J., of course, didn’t make the smart decision and went ahead with his request:
Stevie J. — who admitted to reporters he used cocaine twice while out on bail — was ultimately ordered to 30 days of in-patient rehab, followed by “intense” out-patient treatment and GPS-monitored home detention.
As Jordan left the courthouse, he yelled after Andrew James DeFilippis, the prosecutor from Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office leading the government’s case against him.
“You wanna have a word with me, Andrew?” he shouted as an unrattled DeFilipis nonchalantly kept walking.
It’s bad enough to politely ask to speak with a prosecutor when doing so will at best make you look bad and at worst hurt your case, but yelling after one on the street is a whole different level. If I tried to write a manual on what not to do, it’d look a lot like what Stevie J. did. Ask to talk in a way that could easily be interpreted as threatening? Check. Do it in front of witnesses? Check. And even call the prosecutor by his first name for good measure? Check.
Just like Stevie J. thought he could talk his way out of the case altogether, he’s also happy to try to mitigate his bad decision requesting a talk with the prosecutor and doing it in a particularly idiotic way:
“I’m a grown man and he’s a grown man, and he’s making allegations that might take me away from my family, so of course if we’re on the street why not have a heart-to-heart?” Jordan said to reporters.
Asked whether shouting after an assistant U.S. Attorney and demanding a face-to-face could be perceived as a threat, Jordan said “of course not.”
“It wasn’t a threatening conversation,” he said.
With one comment after another, Stevie J. makes it abundantly clear why it’s a bad idea for him to try to talk with the prosecutor. He even criticizes the court’s order and gives a preview of the stupidity he’d spew in a private meeting with the prosecutor to boot:
“I think its a bunch of bulls—,” Jordan said of home confinement.
“Of course I’m not OK with it, but it’s more or less like confinement to home for what?”
“Cause I’m a black tax paying citizen taking care of all his kids?” Jordan asked rhetorically.
While saying stupid and verifiably false things may help make you a reality star, they aren’t much help when negotiating with professionals. Here, every single thing that came out of Stevie J.’s mouth in the story was a bad idea and a perfect example of why he should have a lawyer do the talking. When you’re charged with not paying child support and admit to violating your conditions of release by using cocaine twice, it’s pretty obviously not a good idea to call a court order that doesn’t throw your ass in jail bullshit and then claim you’re being punished not for failing to support your children and committing an admitted illegal violation of your release terms, but for being a black guy who takes care of all of his kids. It seems that’s pretty much the exact opposite of what’s true.
It would be great if Stevie J.’s bad idea served to discourage some other criminal defendants from trying to talk personally with the prosecutor, but that might be asking for too much. Sadly, I suspect the best we can hope for is that Stevie J.’s stupidity is blatant enough to not encourage others to do the same.