A federal judge in Texas has ordered the government to pay almost $400,000 to an Oklahoma City attorney who was wrongly prosecuted.Idiotic or misguided prosecutions take place on a all too often basis. Click here and here for recent examples. Even if a defendent is found not guilty, or the case never goes to trial, the client is very often financially ruined. Defending yourself in court is not a cheap proposition for the vast majority of Americans. How many innocent people, take for instance a man or woman with a family, faced with losing everything if they lose their case instead take a plea bargain. I make a bet it happens somewhere in the US every week. Fighting the government or a prosecutor is almost never done on a level playing field.
An indictment handed up in Houston in 2004 accused the attorney, John Claro, and seven others of health insurance fraud. Prosecutors alleged that the defendants fraudulently obtained more than $45 million in premium payments.
Claro faced 54 counts and was arrested by FBI agents. The criminal case was dismissed in 2005.
On July 31, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes awarded Claro $391,292 to cover his defense expenses. Claro had sought more. Such payments to former criminal defendants are rare but are allowed by federal law when a prosecution is found to be unjustified or in bad faith.
"This is a lot of money, and it will be paid from the taxpayers' hard-earned funds," Hughes wrote in a scathing opinion. "Some would characterize this as a raid on the treasury. The government can prevent these raids by choosing to be responsible."
The judge called the prosecution of Claro unreasonable and groundless. The judge also found that the prosecution "showed at least a reckless disregard for the truth." The judge ruled that prosecutors misled the grand jury that issued the inaccurate indictment.
"The case against . . . Claro lacked even a semblance of responsible work by the government," the judge wrote. "The misbehavior of the prosecutors costs the taxpayers twice; once in the consumption of their salaries and other expenses in not doing their job, and once in restoring the person . . . they injured."
Hat tip- Ted at Overlawyered
Linked to- Bullwinkle, Right Wing Nation, Webloggin, Yankee Sailor,
Labels: Legal Stuff