What Happens If I Commit Perjury During My Criminal Trial?
If you are charged with a white collar crime such as fraud, you have the same rights as any other criminal defendant. For example, you have the right to remain silent. But if you choose to waive that right and testify at your trial, it is important to tell the truth. If you are caught telling a lie–i.e., you commit perjury on the stand–that can be held against you when it comes time for sentencing.
Dallas Woman Convicted of Fraud in Connection with E-rate Contract
In a recent case from Dallas, United States v. Woods, a 65-year-old woman convicted of mail and wire fraud faces additional prison time after the judge determined she committed perjury during the trial. Federal prosecutors charged the defendant with taking an illegal kickback in connection with her role as the CEO of a charter school.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Dallas, the defendant “approved the granting of a federal telecommunications E-rate contract, worth approximately $337,951,” to a company owned by her co-defendant. The charter school initially selected another contractor, the U.S. Attorney said, but the defendant falsified paperwork to divert the contract to a company with a “shoddy record.” And in fact, the company “botched” the charter school’s job, which led the defendant to falsify additional paperwork. In exchange for these actions, the co-defendant paid the defendant a $5,000 kickback.
A jury convicted the defendant of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, as well as three separate counts of wire fraud. Following the jury’s verdict, the judge made a separate determination that the defendant “committed perjury during her testimony” at trial. Specifically, the defendant told the jury the $5,000 check she received from the co-defendant was not a kickback and that she never participated in any conspiracy to defraud the federal E-rate program. The judge found this testimony was false and not merely the product of “confusion, mistake, or faulty memory” on the part of the defendant.
In federal court, judges rely on a complex set of sentencing guidelines when setting a defendant’s punishment. The guidelines establish a “base level” for a given offense. The judge can then add or subtract levels–increasing or decreasing the sentencing range accordingly–based on various factors. Here, the judge added two levels to the defendant’s base level based on the perjury finding.
Speak with a Houston White Collar Crimes Defense Lawyer Today
There is something else worth noting about this case. When the judge made his perjury finding, he did so based on a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. This is a lower burden of proof than what is required for a criminal conviction, which is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” When making factual determinations during sentencing, the court is not bound by the higher standard. In addition, the judge may rely on evidence that would not normally be admissible during the jury phase of the trial.
What this means is that if you are facing white collar criminal charges, especially in federal court, you need to work with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney who can help you avoid a potential perjury trap. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston or League City today if you need help right away. Call 281-280-0100.