Our mothers always told us never to tell a lie. You remember the childhood taunt: "liar liar, your pants are on fire." Well let's face it, all of us lie every day. We tell white lies or little innocent lies at home and the workplace to keep peace with friends and family. All of us justify these dishonesties because that is just how life is. And so what really is so bad? Will my pants really catch on fire?
Well telling a lie to a government agent like the FBI or the SEC is a crime, and in fact it is a big crime, it is a felony punishable with five years in a jail. The funny thing, or well maybe the scary thing, is the FBI can lie to you all day and for them it is just doing their job. But if you lie to them, then you have committed obstruction of justice or are impeding the government's information gathering process. Courts take obstruction of justice very, very seriously. Indeed the crime sounds particularly ominous.
Telling even the most innocuous lie to a Fed could put you in jail. Ever heard of Martha Stewart? If you are reading our blog, then you have heard of Mrs. Stewart. She served hard time, not because she was guilty of insider trading or a host of other securities fraud, rather she lied to the SEC and Assistant US Attorney. All she said was she did not have a conversation with her broker on the day she sold a lot of stock. In doing so, she told a lie. She mistakenly thought, had she spoken to her broker that day, that she would have committed insider trading. The broker did not divulge any insider information because never had such in the first place. But with a non-criminal lawyer next to her, and not knowing better, she out right lied about the conversation they had. That was the crime she went to jail for. At trial it was revealed that what her broker had said to her that day was not insider information and the broker had a legitimate right to tell her and his other clients. This fact did not stop the prosecutors who just wanted to see Martha sit in jail, which she did so in Danbury women's prison. It was no picnic. Once the government wants you they will pull out anything to convict you. The government has a license to lie with impunity. Want a good book? Read "Licensed to Lie" by ex-US Attorney, Sidney Powell. Just being aware of the draconian consequences of lying to the Feds should make you pause. Many times an agent will catch you off guard and you will say a little lie just to get away. Once they have that little lie you are the government's footstool. They will keep reminding you of that indisputable lie to make sure you become a very cooperative witness. This happens all the time. You are always better off telling a Fed to contact a lawyer and that you have nothing to say. By the time they approach you they have built their case, and you fit in somewhere all ready.
Better advice than from dear old mom about lying: BEFORE YOU TALK TO THEM TALK TO ME. Never talk to an agent of the government before you tell your lawyer everything. Don't let your recalcitrance in revealing something a little ugly to your lawyer prevent you from letting him know why the Feds want to talk to you. You do not help your cause if you lawyer is blindsided. Reveal everything to your lawyer. You can't go wrong and your attorney will never reveal what was said in confidence to anyone in the world (yes, I keep secrets from my wife). Also, you stop talking to anyone but your lawyer including friends and family. Otherwise you may make yourself an un-indicted co-conspirator and have to testify at trial. Who wants the publicity?
Alexander Novak, Esq.
Partner, Novak Juhase & Stern
Link to: Licensed To Lie, Sidney PowellCheck us out on Facebook , LinkedIn , and at njslaw.com