Jim Mokhiber provided reporting and research for "Secrets of an Independent
Like all prosecutors, an independent counsel can call on a number of techniques
and strategies to win indictments and cooperation. A list of some of those
techniques follows. Defense lawyers often play their part in the drama by
pointing to such methods as examples of prosecutorial excess.
"Squeezing and flipping" -- The prosecutor's classic method of
targeting underlings and insiders, securing their cooperation and then "moving
up the chain" to the investigation's primary target. Little fish are often
traded for big fish, and not the other way around.
Charging lesser offenses (a.k.a. "The Al Capone-on-Tax-Evasion Strategy")
-- Prosecuting officials for an offense that is easier to prove than the
primary allegations. A popular example: charging targets with false
statements on financial disclosures, security clearance forms, or even mortgage
Multiplying minor charges -- Adding minor but related counts to an
indictment to increase pressure on a target. Example: an official's allegedly
corrupt telephone conversations or fax transmissions are treated as "wire
Identifying adversaries -- Searching for whistleblowers and others
willing to offer information about a target. Informants may be located using
records from prior court cases or employment complaints.
"Driving a wedge" -- A hardball variant of the squeeze-and-flip, in
which a son, wife or other family member is threatened with indictment to win
guilty pleas or cooperation from a target.
Building subpoena pressure -- Bringing numerous witnesses before a
grand jury to breed uncertainty about who is and is not cooperating with
government prosecutors, and thus encouraging all to talk.
"Collateral Consequences" -- Reminding potential witnesses and others
that corruption convictions can impact all aspects of one's private and
professional life, including government pensions and professional licenses.
For more information on these techniques and common defenses employed against
them, see the 1988 Department of Justice manual entitled Prosecution of
Public Corruption Cases.