Consultants Busy Handling White-Collar Sentences


Herb Hoelter is a pioneer in the field of sentence consulting, or “post-conviction mitigation,” says the Boston Globe. Business is booming with hundreds of white-collar offenders like Martha Stewart and the Enron defendants. Former social workers like Hoelter and lawyers, criminologists, and former white-collar criminals themselves, are hired by attorneys of the well-to-do to persuade judges to mete out lighter sentences to their clients. They work to help new convicts gain assignments to facilities that may suit their interests, like prison camps with book clubs or tennis courts or Kosher cafeterias. “We are like the third-base coaches. We don’t run the team,” said Hoelter, cofounder and chief executive of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, a nonprofit group in Baltimore. “We are just trying to help them get around the bases.”

A federal crackdown on financial crimes has made their jobs tougher. There have been 250 fraud convictions, including judgments against 25 former chief operating officers, says the Justice Department. Recent legislation has stiffened sentencing guidelines and limited judges’ discretion in sentencing white-collar criminals. Bryan Sierra, a Justice Department spokesman, says that “in the past, there was a perception that white-collar criminals could avoid prison time but I think that notion has been dispelled.”

Alan Chaset, a post-conviction lawyer, said the crackdown has made his work more difficult but not impossible. “The kinds of creative things I do and have done for years, now cold water has been thrown on that,” Chaset said. “What it means is that you really have to put more effort into making sure the rules that exist are followed correctly and spend more time trying to be creative to find the opportunities to get something different, something less for your client.”


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