by Jamison Koehler on September 5, 2022
After being arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer, client* was offered a diversion program for first-time offenders.
The program did not require any acknowledgment of guilt. All he had to do was perform 32 hours of community service, and the charges would be dismissed.
This was particularly beneficial considering client was not a U.S. citizen, and any type of conviction would impact his immigration status.
Client – a proud and stubborn man — turned down the offer of diversion. He believed in the American criminal justice system. He wanted to be vindicated.
So we went to trial.
The officer testified that the client, an Uber driver, seemed to speak little English. She admitted that she did almost all the talking – discussing the services that could be performed and the fee for each service.
All the client did, the officer conceded, was agree with what she proposed.
The government rested its case.
I got encouraging vibes from the judge as I litigated my motion for judgment of acquittal.
Translation: There was reasonable doubt. All the defense needed to do was rest and the client would be acquitted.
Client insisted on testifying. Again, he said, he had enormous faith in the American criminal justice system. He was convinced the judge would do the right thing. He wanted to defend himself. He wanted to be vindicated.
So, over the advice of counsel and with the help of an interpreter, he took the stand.
He made two mistakes.
First, on cross-examination, he bragged about how many awards he had won as an Uber driver.
Second, and more importantly, the client started to answer questions before the interpreter finished translating for him.
His testimony convinced the judge that the client spoke English just fine. There was no miscommunication with the police officer.
Moral of this story? Actually, there are two.
First, sometimes you need to exercise your right to remain silent. A skilled cross-examiner can create all sorts of problems for you, no matter how solid you think your testimony will be.
Second, sometimes you need to listen to your lawyer. That’s what you paid so much money for.
*The ”client” described in this story is a composite character based on different defendants I have represented over the years.