Friday, April 21, 2023

How a former McKinsey consultant "built a booming enterprise by fanning false hopes in some families" that he could help get their loved ones out of prison

Really long article at the LAT about how criminal defense can become a big business even in a state that offers free representation at trial, appeal, and other proceedings:

He became a celebrity inside prisons, his name passed around in exercise yards from Folsom to Calipatria, and in Facebook support groups for wives and children. Families of limited means borrowed against their homes, took out high-interest loans, dipped into 401(k)s, worked double shifts, ran public fundraisers and amassed credit card debt to pay [the attorney] fees that could run north of $40,000.

A Times investigation found that [the attorney] built a booming enterprise by fanning false hopes in some families desperate to get their loved ones home. He encouraged people to spring for pricey legal services that he knew or should have known had little or no chance of success, the newspaper found.

He told families of men incarcerated for murder and other violent crimes that progressive L.A. Dist. Atty. George Gascón could move to free them in less than a year under one new resentencing law. None of [the attorney]’s attempts, for which families paid about $10,000 each, appear to have been successful, and Gascón’s office told The Times it generally does not consider such offenders to be good candidates for resentencing.


In another example, [the attorney] presented a commutation from the governor, which experts say is a long shot for even the most rehabilitated of candidates, as “a very real possibility for all types of inmates.” Hundreds paid up to $14,000 for him to submit applications. None has been granted, The Times found


The Times found that [the attorney]’s firm relied on the work of some low-paid contract lawyers who were not licensed in California and had little or no experience in criminal appeals. Among those helping draft legal memos and court filings were lawyers from the Philippines and other developing countries making about $10 an hour.


The new laws are designed so that prisoners who qualify get free legal representation.