Despite conventional wisdom that Philadelphia has a “no-snitch” reputation, federal prosecutors there have long been relying on cooperators to make cases, says the Philadelphia Daily News. One third of three federal criminal cases involves cooperating defendants, almost three times the national average for federal cases, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. “There isn’t anybody facing mandatory minimum sentences that we have not urged to cooperate,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer.
When defendants cooperate and provide information the government deems useful, prosecutors make a motion at sentencing based on “substantial assistance.” The motions generally mean a reduction in the prison time a cooperating defendant would otherwise have to serve. The model has proved to be a win-win for the feds: Philly prosecutors are getting lots of cooperation and nearly double the national average of prison time. Several factors conspire to make the Philly feds look like bad-asses. For one thing, a higher percentage of violent crimes are charged than the national average, and those crimes often carry mandatory minimum sentences of 10 to 30 years, meaning defendants have a greater incentive to cooperate. (In 2010, 61 percent of federal criminal cases in Philadelphia involved drugs, guns and robbery or a combination, compared with 39 percent nationwide.)