I am describing my criminal prosecution experience from years ago.
I was sitting firmly in the witness chair, next to the judge looking out at the sea of people: the jury, the prosecution’s table, and the supporters/observers in the audience. The first thing I decided to do was ignore everyone but whoever was in front of me and the jury. Distractions could be detrimental and I had no time for them.
Dan, my attorney, stood up and asked me to state my name. And it began…. I was testifying.
There were a series of questions that built the foundation of my life. I had no problem discussing that I had a good childhood, education, and opportunities. It was all true. Dan showed the trajectory of my career through additional professional licenses, responsibilities, and positions. I had been an industry arbitrator. I had earned levels of success in sales production. I had a core group of loyal clients. I wanted to learn and grow in my career. That seems like what most/many others would consider or do as well. Financial information just felt like a world and language that was a comfortable place for me to be. What made me the most pleased with the work that I did was to help people.
The focus of this case was a venture capital fund. Most of my traditional clients were not suited for this type of investment and I didn’t recommend it. I explained to the Court that there were only 3 people that I showed the fund to my parents, my lifelong friend, and a client that had always shared his high-risk tolerance. The rest of my clients didn’t even know that the Fund existed. Suitability is the rock bed of investments. Simply if your financial goals don’t match the proposed investment, you don’t make the investment. I explained that I had lent money to the fund, not a small amount. It was money that I borrowed.
One of the new responsibilities I had at this point in my career was a financial and operations principal which meant that I reported financials to the regulators periodically. I wanted to make sure that I reported them properly so I would take the firm’s accountant’s report, make my report, and submit it to a securities consultant to be sure of the accuracy before I sent it to the regulators. Another set of eyes on the operation seemed like a great idea and I did that every time. I didn’t have the reports anymore to show them, but one of the prosecution’s witnesses was the regulatory auditor that had testified about my willingness to comply, etc…
There was a sensation that telling too much would make me look “too good” and not be believable even if it were true. I couldn’t be concerned that telling the truth would ever be a problem.
Nothing could replace the feeling of testifying. It was the decision to take advantage of one of the very few opportunities that I was given throughout this whole ordeal. While the prosecution viewed it as a way to trip me up and my attorney viewed it as a way to allow prosecutors to manipulate me, I thought of testifying as a chance for the jury to get to know me. It was that simple. I was hoping that knowing the truth and keeping composed would afford me the chance of seeing me for who I really was.
The thing that messed with me is that I had to testify as best as I possibly could and not be concerned with the results. That was the way I would get through it and do well.
While Dan was concerned about me testifying, I was more concerned about not doing it and always wondering if it would have made a difference. I wasn’t willing to have to think about that down the road. This was my chance.
As I testified, I had to forget that I had a community out in the courtroom. I had to not think about how much they cared and how helpless they felt. I had to straddle the tension of being “me” and being the best defendant there ever was. It felt like if I felt confident, my community would be too. I had to be the example as much as I could. My community had split like parting the sea. I could look out and see the people that really believed in me and who I was and had always been. The other side were the people that questioned everything, including me. That side believed that the Government must have something on me and they were waiting to hear what I was caught with. They were waiting for the “aha” moment when the prosecutor cornered me and I had to admit something that nobody thought I would do. I knew who those people were and who they weren’t. Many years later, I still remember who was on which side.