When a Plea Deal Leads to Spying

Throughout the course of a trial, a defendant may decide to take a plea deal, which usually will shorten or lessen their sentence, or allow them different charges. Many times this plea deal will require that they give evidence or testify against someone else in the same case or a current ongoing investigation. This is exactly what happened in a case of fraud in Florida that went horribly wrong.

In May 2015, four people were indicted in Florida for fraud, including mail fraud, money-laundering, and conspiracy charges. One of the four men, John Leon and his attorney decided to take a plea deal with the prosecution that promised he would testify against his co-conspirators. This was done in secret, without notice to the judge, the other defense lawyers or anyone in the prosecutor’s chain of command.

After the plea deal Leon was allowed to keep in touch and meet with the rest of the defendants and their lawyers to keep up appearances, as he was set to testify in a different investigation of fraud occurring at the same time. However, Leon was not supposed to ask too many questions or try to glean information in regards to their defense strategy. According to the other defense lawyers and witnesses however, Leon continued to ask a large amount of questions, request records and plot strategy, in disregard of the rules of his plea deal and in violation of the 6th amendment.

Once this came to light, the judge presiding over the case barred Leon from being able to testify against his co-defendants, and criticized the prosecutors and Leon’s defense lawyer in the way they handled the plea bargain. Though there was enough evidence prior to Leon’s spying that the defense could not convince the judge to throw out the case, Leon’s testimony will have to be completely cut from the prosecution.

Read the article here.