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.
A professional tax preparer from western Pennsylvania who was charged in March 2011 with preparing fraudulent returns for some of his clients has pleaded guilty to one count of tax fraud. As part of the plea deal, the court sentenced the man to six months of home confinement and three years of probation, but he will not serve prison time as he could have been sentenced to if convicted at trial.
Some ill-conceived comments by a former airport worker about shooting President Obama led to the man serving 30 days in jail and a ruling that he had to give up his collection of 70 guns. But the court of appeals in the man's home state recently ruled that there was no legal reason to seize the man's collection and that he was not a threat to the president.
Five and a half years, approximately, is what a Pittsburgh-area man will spend in prison after pleading guilty to federal drug conspiracy charges. The 20-year-old man was arrested in 2009, along with four others, by Pennsylvania State Police and later charged with conspiracy to distribute 100 to 400 grams of heroin. All five individuals have now entered guilty pleas to the federal drug charges but the man is the only one who has yet been sentenced.