- By: Diego Pestana
It is an unfortunate reality these days that whenever something relates to politics the noise drowns out reasonable thought. This is especially true with matters involving former President Donald Trump. Although most of the attention on Judge Cannon’s order appointing a special master has correctly focused on matters relating to attorney-client and executive privilege, Judge Cannon also commented on something that those of us who practice criminal law are too familiar with, especially those of us who defend financial and white-collar crime allegations: the devastating reputational damage caused by an indictment or just the public disclosure of a potential criminal prosecution (which is necessarily the result of a one-sided presentation of unchallenged evidence). As part of her ruling appointing a special master in the matter, Judge Cannon found that the former President established a risk of irreparable injury from the stigma associated with a future prosecution. For support, Judge Cannon relied on powerful language from the former Fifth Circuit in Richey v. Smith, 515 F.2d 1239, 1244 (5th Cir. 1975), where the court discussed the life-changing effects of an indictment: “[A] wrongful indictment is no laughing matter; it often works a grievous, irreparable injury to the person indicted. The stigma cannot be easily erased. In the public mind, the blot on a man’s escutcheon, resulting from such a public accusation of wrongdoing, is seldom wiped out by a subsequent judgment of not guilty. Frequently, the public remembers the accusation, and still suspects guilt, even after an acquittal.” This discussion is welcome and will hopefully shed light on the life-altering effects of an indictment—even if the indictment is dismissed or the defendant is later found not guilty.