Back in June, I wrote this post about the Thomas Parenteau trial where Parenteau (not a lawyer) was representing himself against 13 federal charges in a multi-million dollar fraud scam. I discussed what a bad idea that was. As it turns out, the jury convicted Parenteau of 11 of the 13 charges against him. Parenteau was acquitted of two money-laundering charges. I guess he left the stolen money dirty and maybe that’s why he was caught in the first place.
Parenteau was convicted on 11 counts including wire fraud, tax fraud, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering.
I am a firm believer that criminals should pay the price for their crimes and should not “get off easy.” That belief stands whether you are a starlett like Lindsay Lohan who is getting jail time for violating probation or a less-well-known real estate scammer like Thomas Parenteau. However, one big difference is that Ms. Lohan was represented by an attorney who will likely succeed in getting Lohan’s actual jail time reduced to a fraction of her sentence, while Mr. Parenteau’s ill-advised courtroom antics probably did nothing to help his cause.
According to Kathy Lynn Gray’s recent article in The Columbus Dispatch, the trial was expected to last six weeks. It lasted two months and a lot of that extra time was a result of Parenteau’s decision to represent himself.
Trials are like traffic. When the jury is taking in evidence like a nonstop cruise down I-71 at 65 MPH, the jurors are comfortable, attentive, and understanding. But when the jury’s evidence show hits a traffic jam brought on by constant objections, improper questions, recesses, sidebars, and antics, the jurors become irritable, restless, fatigued, and annoyed. You just want to lay on that horn and get the people in front of you moving to arrive at your destination.
The Parenteau trial was no cruise down I-71 with Parenteau’s appointed counsel locked in the trunk of the car. Instead, Parenteau tells the jury “I’m an entrepreneur, not a criminal” and “fee-fi-fo-fum, the government says I am a cheap bum.” Well, guess what? Saying you’re an entrepreneur and and not a criminal is something I think Al Capone would say. Spouting off “fee-fi-fo-fum” makes me think of an ogre, a bully – basically not someone with whom I want to be friends. These statements do no paint a picture of a victim of circumstance or generate much sympathy.
I do not have any reason to believe that Parenteau was wrongfully convicted. All evidence to the contrary. But, competent legal counsel can mean the difference between life in prison and maybe seeing the dawn on an open field of freedom one day.
Parenteau will be sentenced in a few weeks. If he has any appealable issues, I wonder if he’ll let his attorneys finally get involved.