It was never my way to take shortcuts in business, in my licensing cases or in life in general. I delighted in making the most complete, definitive and protracted showings, orally and in writing, that my audience would allow, and I won 90% of my franchise cases in the 1960’s and probably 70% through the 1970’s, because my clients/fellow-co-founders and I offered far away the most services, and many “firsts”, to the local communities.
When I was attacked by multiple government agencies (as explained in Falsehood (4)) virtually simutaneously, I reeled, in a veritable stuper. I couldn’t believe it. I went into denial. At first, I was convinced that it was all a misunderstanding and that it would go away. Ridiculously, I thought that innocence was the best defense; why would anyone accuse me? (Interestingly, shortly before this “ceiling” fell in on me, I received a call from a California client who had been a major fund raiser for then President Reagan; this client advised me, “You are a target of the Department of Justice.” He knew no details, but he had been told that only days earlier. As we later realized, I was “taking” too many cable TV franchises and cellular telephone licenses, ultimately worth billions, from some very powerful people. (In cellular alone, the clients of my law firm won over two-thirds of the U.S. licenses in one round of thirty markets, which seems likely to have been the last proverbial straw that triggered massive attacks on me.)
From all six of the simultaneous attacks against me (all in the early 1980’s), only one person ever publicly accused me of any wrongdoing, and I was naively convinced that my testimony would be believed in any such “He said–she said” case. To confirm that probability, my solitary accuser (whom I had met only twice in my life) had recently confessed to some 15 briberies, totally unrelated to my case, during his term as Mayor of his small town (Fox Lake) north of Chicago. “That does it,” I thought, “no jury would believe a confessed felon’s lies over the testimony of one with my heretofore flawless reputation,” but I had zero experience in criminal proceedings, and I did not realize that, when a case is announced in criminal court — as “United States versus [Your Name]” — the average juror understandably presumes that his government is right and that the defendant is guilty. Indeed, most jurors take their guidance from politicians, movie stars and evangelists. So, except, perhaps, in murder cases, there is a heavy presumption of guilt, but I didn’t know it. Indeed, the then U.S. Attorney General, Edwin Meese, had then very recently (and shockingly) announced, “We don’t indict innocent people.” In other words, to Meese/the then Justice Department, if you’re indicted, you are guilty; trials aren’t necessary; all that is needed is an accusation by the government. Sadly, in most criminal cases, guilt is the presumption, and, no surprise, the government prevails 95+% of the time. Thus, in criminal trials, in reality, defendants are required to prove their innocence beyond doubt. Most likely are guilty, but heaven help any who are not.
Anyway, I had no idea what to do. My partners urged me to retain criminal counsel. I then hired one of the best in the U.S., Plato Cacheris, BUT Mr. Cacheris lived in Washington, D.C., where I did, and not in Chicago, where the case would be tried. As good as he was and is, he was not personal friends with the prosecutors or judges in that far-away circuit, and that always helps. Regardless, Plato had a fine idea: I could take the FBI’s lie detector test and demonstrate my innocence, and the prosecutors should drop the case. So, Plato promptly asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI agents on the case to give me a lie detector test and thus end the case without a trial. He offered this orally and in writing, but he was turned down. See Letter of Attorney-Plato Cacheris. An accusation by only one person is generally sufficient to justify an indictment, and, as noted above, an indictment is enough to win most criminal cases and to hang another scalp on the prosecutors’ belts — which helps justify more staff under them, a higher GS rating, which leads to more positive publicity and to more pay. “It is a numbers’ game,” one ex-FBI agent told me. “Innocence and guilt have nothing to do with it.” In any event, having zero experience in criminal law, I knew none of this; so, I relied on my logic: I hadn’t said what one person accused me of saying to him in private; and he was a confessed felon, and I was innocent; so, I shouldn’t have to worry. Right? Wrong! This accuser appeared in court and testified in glasses so dark that his eyes could not be seen. This solitary person who testified that I did anything wrong was rewarded for his “cooperation with the prosecutors” by having his sentence reduced from 15 to three years. I learned many lessons from this process, but too late to help myself. In retrospect, statistics indicate that, once the government targets someone, it can get an indictment 99% of the time and a conviction nearly as often. The best, and often only defense, is to avoid becoming a target and that means avoiding offending the government or those powerful forces that finance and thus influence those then in power, which can be done inadvertently and innocently. Clearly, one needs to be infinitely more alert than was I. My biggest mistake: I was innocent and the only “evidence” against me was the word of one confessed felon; I assumed that any jury would believe me. They did as to the criminal charges (bribery and conspiracy) but found me guilty of mailing two benign partnership agreements; that was the totality of my “crime”, for which reason the Court later vacated (expunged) the conviction for this non-crime. Bottom line remains, since I felt innocent, I really didn’t expect a negative outcome and barely defended myself. Such naiveté can be terribly costly.