Oklahoma City Federal Defense Attorney
Jacqui Ford: Welcome to Your Best Defense Podcast. My name is Jacqui Ford, and I’m excited to be here with you today. We’re going to be talking about federal criminal defense and what it means to be charged in federal court, the processes—how they’re different from state court—and why it’s important that, if you’re being investigated for a federal crime, have committed a federal crime, or are charged with a federal crime, you need to find the best Oklahoma City Federal Defense Lawyer you can find. I’m excited today—we have with us my friend and colleague, Mr. Jack Dempsey Pointer. Mr. Pointer has been practicing criminal defense for well over 40 years in the state of Oklahoma. His practice is primarily in the federal courthouse. Jack, thanks for being with us today.
JDP: Thank you very much. I did not bring my chisel so I could show you how I wrote Hammurabi’s Code. Ms. Ford and I have embarked on a journey in federal court that very few people have admitted to that privilege. Of course, she’s a tremendous trial lawyer in Oklahoma City—and civil, in the state court. But in federal court, I felt like she needed a little more experience, and that’s why I have kind of taken her under my rather exhaustive wings.
JF: And, for that, I could never be grateful enough, Jack. Thank you.
JDP: You’re quite welcome. Believe me, you’re going to be paying the price. Ms. Ford approached me about talking about federal criminal defense in Oklahoma City. It’s something that I know something about. As she said, for 45 years, I’ve been doing this. That takes it back to probably when most of the people listening to this’s parents were still in at least junior high school. To start off with, federal criminal defense by Ms. Ford and myself in Oklahoma City is a very unique area. In fact, you’re not going to be able to go to the phone book and say “Federal Criminal Defense.” It’s not going to bring up anybody who has any experience. On the Internet, it’s a little bit of a different deal. A lot of people pay for that privilege, but Ms. Ford as a federal criminal defense attorney has taken this method, which I’m highly impressed with. Let’s start about how Ms. Ford and I approach a case. Indicted in federal criminal court in Oklahoma City.
JF: What does it mean to be indicted in federal criminal court, Jack?
JDP: The federal government, in criminal cases, does them one of two ways. One is a complaint. A complaint is just a written document supported by an affidavit from one of the alphabet agencies. One of the Is—IRS, ATF, DEA—and secret service does not go by SS. They find someone or it has been reported to them that a crime has been committed under federal jurisdiction, and you have to remember that federal jurisdiction is limited. For instance, in civil cases, in federal jurisdictions all over the country, there’s a minimum of $75,000—the amount has to be $75,000 in controversy—or a constitutional issue. If it’s not $75,000, then it goes to the state court. The federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and they are presided over by what we call Article 3 judges that are set forth in the Constitution. Article 3 judges are district court judges that are appointed by the President of the United States, and they serve for life. There’s no elections, no votes of confidence; they’re actually in there for life. Federal judges—there are three judges in Oklahoma, the northern district, which takes in Tulsa; the eastern district, which is surrounded by Muskogee; and then the western district, which roughly is from west of I-35 south to the Texas border and north to the Kansas border. It’s one of the largest districts in the United States. There are 93 federal districts in the United States. All of them have district judges in varying amounts. There are also 93 United States Attorneys. Those individuals are political appointees. You may remember a case when there was recently an election. The President took office and immediately sent out 93 faxes to the people who had been appointed under the prior administration: “Thank you for your service. It’s no longer needed.“
JF: So they worked at the will of the President, and whatever that administration’s agenda might be is strongly influenced by what their US Attorneys and all of the different districts are motivated by. Is that right?
JDP: Yes. For instance, here in Oklahoma City, we have a US Attorney, Mr. Sanford Coats. He has a staff of probably 35-50 US Attorneys. These people are highly experienced in federal criminal practice. There of course, is the civil section, but mainly it’s criminal that they handle. And these individuals are the ones responsible and directly connected to the alphabet agencies, and when you’re practicing federal criminal defense in Oklahoma City with Ms. Ford and I, you get an education on this pretty quick. One of the things you have to remember is—when I was talking about the limited jurisdiction of the federal government—we have interstate highways, which are nationally funded and built by states’ highways. (Little highways are enforced by Oklahoma State Troopers.) They could be enforced by the FBI, DEA, ATF—whomever—to go out there to write traffic tickets and whatever, but that’s a terrible waste of a very experienced resource. FBI agents don’t need to be writing traffic tickets is what I’m saying.
JF: So what do these alphabet agencies do? How do we find ourselves in the limited jurisdiction of the western district of Oklahoma—or any court in Oklahoma, Jack?
JDP: Let’s go to some examples. Federal banks that are federally insured by the FBI see if a teller, a bank officer, or someone like that commits a crime like laundering money or misincorporating it or misplacing it or misusing it, that is automatically reported by management to FBI, or secret service, IRS—it just depends on what it is.
JF: And we have some experience here, right? It’s not just you get caught and you pony up all the money like we’ve seen in the past, and so they don’t say anything—no harm, no foul. In fact, there’s not a “Pay it back, and we won’t say anything” kind of deal, is there, Jack?
JDP: No, Ms. Ford and I’ve prosecuted a federal court case in Oklahoma City where the individual was caught, and he paid every dime—several hundred thousand dollars back immediately.
JF: Prior to the feds even knowing anything had even gone missing.
JDP: Nobody was involved. We were dealing with a civil lawyer on the money, okay? And we paid the check—and of course, attorneys and civil attorneys aren’t criminal attorneys. They can’t guarantee there won’t be prosecution. So we tried to nail him down and say we’re not going to tell anybody, and we were quickly informed that this instance must be reported to federal regulators.
JF: It was mandatory.
JDP: Yes, it’s absolutely. Or the person would get in trouble. So we had a situation where the next thing, we got a phone call from the lawyer for the FDIC in Dallas and we got a phone call from the FBI, and we began our merry journey through the federal defense system here in Oklahoma City, Ms. Ford and I did. Fortunately for the gentleman, he received one of the few sentences I have ever seen where probation was granted. That’s highly unusual. The federal sentencing guidelines and the federal law provide that there is no longer any parole in the federal system. If you get a 10-year sentence, you’re going to do eight-and-a-half years flat.
JF: Now, Jack, that doesn’t sound like easy time. It sounds a little different than state court, too. In state court, I can get a 10-year sentence, depending on the crime I committed, and let’s just say it’s a measly little white-collar crime, as people like to downplay white-collar crimes in this country. I might not serve all 10 of that in state court, but in federal court, with there being no “Good Time” credit and no parole, we’re serving every day.
JDP: The state court sentence you’re talking about is probably a deferred sentence and pay the money back and so-on-and-so-forth. The sentence you would receive in federal court is not only pay the money back, but under the sentencing guidelines, we have chart and we have a table. We compare how many points are added, and so-on-and-so-forth, and then you come up with a range of punishment. That range of punishment used to be mandatory, but now it’s advisory to the federal judges. However, the judges follow it pretty closely, but I can assure you, that if it’s embezzlement from a federally-insured institution, a federal agency, beating up a postal officer, you don’t like the SEC—all that kind of stuff—that’s all going to federal, and you’re going to do flat, hard time. We have three types of prisons on the federal system. There are the camps—the ones that are so notorious that everyone calls them “Camp Fed”—I believe you try to envision yourself that in 24-hours, they tell you to get up, to go to sleep, and you do what they say. You take a banker who has owned several banks who has to go out in the morning and has to milk cows. It’s not too easy for him. Then you have the federal correction institutions—FCI. (The camp and FCI in Oklahoma—we have one in El Reno.) It’s a federal camp, and it’s also a federal correction institution. The federal correctional institution is behind wire, not walls. It’s very difficult to get in and get out of. Of course, you hear of no escapes from there. The third type of institution is basically a prison, and that would be places like Leavenworth, Kansas. And Leavenworth, Kansas is very much like McAlester—it’s a very strict environment behind walls.
JF: So it’s not a place any one of our clients, future or current, want to find themselves.
JF: This is not easy time. So, as criminal defense lawyers in Oklahoma, what do we do? What do we do to keep them from finding themselves in one of these three places?
JDP: Well, it’s like any other case except for it’s accelerated. You must understand that, under the federal system, they have something called the Speedy Trial Act, and the Speedy Trial Act basically says the first time you appear before a federal magistrate or judicial officer, a clock begins to run. And that clock is 70 days. At the end of that 70 days, we’re not talking about talking to get a jury—the judge is calling the jury. You’re getting ready to try this case.
JF: 70 days from indictment to jury trial.
JDP: From initial appearance to jury trial.
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