Jared Fogle, formerly Subway’s public spokesman, pled guilty this past week in federal court to multiple counts of child porn charges. This includes engaging in sex with minors on multiple occasions. In exchange for his plea deal the prosecutor has agreed not recommend more than 12 and one-half years in prison. This shocking revelation yields an important question about the adequacy of plea deals and how they come about in the criminal justice system.
In Jared Fogle’s case, his case was prosecuted in federal court, yet the majority of crimes charged in the United States are prosecuted at the state level. This is due to the fact that state legislatures dictate what constitutes a crime in their states. Given that distinction, it is important to note that what constitutes a crime will vary from state to state. Nonetheless, the crimes usually vary only slightly from state to state given that the states often follow The Model Penal Code (MPC), which is a statutory text which was developed by the American Law Institute (ALI) in 1962. Further, the states are limited by constitutional doctrines such as the First Amendment and Eight Amendment to the United States Constitution on what constitutes a crime and the punishment proportionate to that crime.
Given that the states govern what constitutes a crime, it is up to local prosecutors to determine how to proceed when a crime is committed. The prosecutor may upon review of a file may determine that the case lacks evidence to prosecute and may dismiss the matter. In the usual alternative, the prosecutor will determine an acceptable plea offer to a defendant accused of a crime. That begs the questions what goes into a plea offer? That will often be decided by a defendant’s criminal history, the seriousness of the crime, and the amount of evidence to convict that defendant. Moreover, there are mandatory guidelines and prohibitions on certain crimes.
A good defense attorney should be able to expose weaknesses in the State’s case in order to bring about a favorable plea offer. Although this may vary widely from case to case, a defense attorney must be aware of what are the resources available to the prosecutor in that county in which his client is being prosecuted. Plea offers will often vary depending on the level of crime in that county. For example, if the county has a high murder and violent crime rate, a simple assault or small possession of narcotics charge will not be consider a priority; hence, a plea deal will be likely be very favorable. On the contrary, in a county which does not have a lot of crime, one can expect the prosecutor to harder on plea deals given the resources available to prosecute.
In the Jared Fogle case, there appears to be overwhelming evidence to convict him. This includes over 500 child porn videos and pictures on his foundations’ computers which were seized by federal agents. Moreover, there were compelling statements from multiple minor victims. The mountain of evidence against him versus the extensive resources of the federal district attorney’s ability to prosecutor him, resulted in a tactical decision by his defense team to accept a plea offer to a long term jail sentence.