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Should I plead guilty and/or cooperate with the government?

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But whether or not you should plead guilty is probably the most substantial decision you and your attorney can make. And it should be made by consulting with an attorney who is competent, who knows the evidence backwards and forwards, knows the law involved and can adequately advice you of the risks involved in going to trial versus the benefits of pleading guilty. So that’s one aspect of it.

The other aspect of it is whether or not to cooperate with the government. Now when you cooperate with the government, there are a great deal of benefits at sentencing that are available to you that would not be available to you if you were just to plead guilty. The government has the power to give you credit for substantial assistance in helping them make other cases and to cut your guidelines to a fraction of what you otherwise would be looking at. But one thing I would caution defendants as to is if you’re going to cooperate, it’s all or nothing at all. You don’t cooperate halfway because many a defendant has learned the hard way that if you cooperate halfway and you withhold certain evidence from the government, that they view that as obstruction of justice. And you could end up possibly with a more severe sentence.

So the decision to cooperate is separate and a part from the decision whether or not to plead guilty at all. And that should only be determined after a thorough consultation with your lawyer and an evaluation of all the evidence in the case and the applicable law.

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