Psychological Consequences of an Indictment
January 17, 2006
Recently the White Collar Crime Prof Blogs have been covering the collateral consequences of an indictment - noting that many folks lose their friends and ability to make a living. Christoper King, an ex-lawyer, is a law-related blogger under indictment. In this post, he writes an open letter to his employer explaining some of his atypical behavior at work. It's not meant to be a sob story, but by reading between the lines, you can really get a feel for how much trouble an otherwise professional and stable defendant has dealing with an indictment. A person might legally be presumed innocent, but that doesn't keep the ghosts from haunting him.
And he is haunted. I've been following King's blog since its inception, and his posts have become increasingly incoherent. I know why he's indicted, since he used to be comprehensible. Now-a-days, someone logging on wouldn't have a clue. His entire blog can serve as a representation of the incoherence attached to a person under indictment.
The King case is simple. King is charged with extortion for telling a local police chief to pay someone who was strip-searched, or else King and the person strip-searched would hold a press conference. The prosecutor has indicted King, arguing that under New Hampshire's broadly-worded extortion law, anyone who demands money while doing something unlawful, is guilty of extortion. The theory is that King was engaging in the unauthorized practice of law when he threatened to hold the press conference. The, the UPL is the "otherwise unlawful" conduct that serves as a hook for the extortion charge.
It seems like a pretty outrageous case, but King is not a sympathetic victim, even though indicting someone for extortion for threatening to hold a press conference raises significant First Amendment issues. King, in his anger and outrage, has become possessed with his case and his accusers. He posts cartoons and other random images, and uses foul language. He has begun to unravel. It's pretty sad, actually, as King strikes me as the kind of person who was once very normal. A bit outspoken, but still someone we'd consider to be pretty cool.
I don't mean to pick on King. I feel bad for the guy. But he has made his situation public, and in so doing, has allowed his blog to serve as an interesting case study of what happens when someone is indicted. King's case is a reminder that if a person under indictment is not careful, his case, along with the attached anger and fear, will consume him.
The self-help experts often say you should forgive people who wrong you, not for their sake, but for your sake. Forgiveness, it is said, releases us from the baggage that refusing to forgive saddles us with. I'm sure it's hard for a criminal defendant to forgive his accuses, but for the defendant's own sanity, he had best to learn how.