In most cases where a person has been charged with a crime, there comes a time when the person and his or her attorney will discuss how they plan to plead. The question can be as simple as whether or not the accused person did what the government says he or she did, but often the issue is more complicated than that. For example, the prosecutor may have offered a plea bargain that includes the defendant pleading guilty in exchange for a lesser criminal penalty than he or she might risk getting at trial.
Prosecutors and judges generally prefer it when defendants plead guilty because it saves them the time and expense of going through a trial. It also relieves prosecutors of the task of convincing a jury or judge beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. For these reasons, what plea a defendant enters can be one of the most important decisions he or she makes in a criminal case.
A western Pennsylvania man's recent decision to change his mind about pleading guilty to tax fraud illustrates the importance of being confident in that decision. The man is accused of claiming no taxable income on his federal tax returns forms from 2003 through 2006. Federal prosecutors claim the man earned more than $250,000 in those four years and owes nearly $50,000 in back taxes.
In early October, the defendant and his attorney told the judge that he would plead guilty. But then he sent the judge a letter saying that he was pleading not guilty after all. He apologized to the court for the inconvenience -- the original trial date was scrapped after the guilty plea -- but said that he firmly believes he did not commit tax evasion. "I didn't want to lie," he said.
Trial has been rescheduled for Dec. 3.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Sharon man backs out of guilty plea for tax evasion, earning judge's rebuke," Rich Lord, Oct. 10, 2012
· Our law firm is experienced in defending cases involving tax fraud and other white collar crime charges. For more information, please visit our Pittsburgh white collar charges defense page.