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Elected official to plead guilty on extortion charges

The former state treasurer of Pennsylvania was charged with two counts of extortion related to his dealings with a law firm and a property-management firm. The charges state that he used his position to intimidate two potential campaign donors. He issued verbal threats of possible retaliation if they did not donate. He could face up to 40 years in prison if the maximum penalty for both charges is issued.

The 55-year-old man has admitted that his actions were an abuse of his office and a mistake. As state treasurer, he had enormous power and influence over the handling and oversight of state funds. He was responsible for a variety of fiscal tasks, such as handling government investments and paying government bills and employees. He has chosen to plead guilty on both charges, and he issued a public apology and resignation. According to his lawyer, he has signed a plea agreement. A video recording of his apology was provided. With the Senate's confirmation, the Governor will be selecting a new official to finish the current term as state treasurer.

When a person is facing federal felony charges and there is clear evidence of wrongdoing, pleading not guilty may not be the best legal choice. While a guilty plea usually assures a conviction, the plea will often come with an agreement that provides the accused person with a reduced or minimum sentence for the crimes.

An attorney can help a client to decided if pleading guilty is in his or her best interest. Most criminal defense attorneys will be realistic with a client about the possibility of winning a case at trial. If there is very little chance of obtaining a not guilty verdict, then entering a guilty plea and getting an agreement may be the best legal strategy.

Source: WPVI-TV, "Fmr. PA. Treasurer Rob McCord Charged With Extortion, Guilty Plea Planned", Dann Cuellar, Feb. 2, 2015

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